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Martin Birkhans receiving Physiotherapy at Cramond Residence

Physiotherapy gets Cramond Resident back on his feet

31 March 2023

When Martin Birkhans arrived at Cramond Residence in January 2022, he did not have the use of his legs and thought that he would never walk again. But, thanks to the expertise, care and attention of two physiotherapists, Nicola McIntosh and Benedicte Aarseth, he is now walking round the care home with the aid of a wheeled walking frame.

‘Now people ask me how many laps I’ve done in the garden,’ Martin says. ‘If I hadn’t come to Cramond Residence and received the care from my wonderful physiotherapists, I could still be bed-bound. I can’t just say enough nice things about Nicola and Benedicte, both as people and as exceedingly knowledgeable physiotherapists.’

Martin, who was a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Edinburgh before he retired, came to Cramond after being discharged from hospital. Having suffered from a range of illnesses, he could not move out of bed without the aid of a hoist. However, he had not given up hope and chose Cramond after his daughters pointed out the physiotherapy support that is part of our all-inclusive care package.

‘When I first met Martin, he told me that he had noticed some movement in his legs,’ explains Nicola, who works with Balanced, the company that provides physiotherapy care to all of Cramond’s residents. ‘So, I assessed him and found that he could move his ankles up and down. Initially we put in place some bed exercises, to try and maintain this active movement, as I thought that, perhaps, there was some hope that he might just be able to stand.

‘Since then, Martin has gone from strength to strength, progressing from using a full body hoist to standing with a Zimmer frame. He now gets around really well with a walker. He’s very dedicated, very motivated. I think his amazing success is down to his personality and his determination.’

‘When we first started, we were mainly doing strength exercises,’ says Benedicte, Nicola’s colleague from Balanced. ‘We were using resistance bands and dumbbells and doing some mobility exercises too. As he progressed, we moved on to looking at sitting balance. When he was able to stand, we did a lot of standing balance exercises and lots more strength exercises. We also used a static bike, which allowed him to exercise when we weren’t there.’ Benedicte explains that the sessions with Martin were between 30 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on his energy levels on the day. They took place two times a week.

‘Let me give you an example of the kind of effort Nicola and Benedicte put in,’ Martin says. ‘When they were trying to get me to walk with a Zimmer, one of them was behind me, the other one was on her knees on the floor and walking backwards on her knees monitoring my lower legs all along the corridor. When anyone puts in that kind of effort for you, you’d better respond!’

According to Martin, all of the exercises were done in a way that put him under no stress. ‘The moment there was any pain involved we stopped,’ he says. Now, he is delighted with the improvements he enjoys in his quality of life. ‘First of all,’ he explains. ‘I can get in and out of my bed. I can get to the toilet, I can get into a car and go out for lunch. I’m quite fond of cooking and I can do that. I was even able to spend Christmas in the Highlands with my daughter, which was a pretty major step forward.

‘I would like to add that alongside the two physiotherapists, the rest of the staff here at Cramond are quite outstanding and very supportive. One of the carers, who had seen me when I first came in, recently saw me walking down her corridor and she broke into tears. That’s how caring they are.’

‘This year we got a lovely Christmas present,’ Nicola says. ‘It was a picture from Martin’s daughter of Martin sitting in a comfy chair at Christmas at his daughter’s house, which is something that no one ever thought that he would achieve. It’s things like that make our job really worthwhile.

‘I saw Martin last week,’ Benedicte adds, ‘and we can still see him making progress. He has surprised us from the very start and he continues to surprise us to this day. It definitely makes us feel extremely good about the work that we do.’