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Intertwined therapy disciplines come together at Spring Hill business

By Beth N. Gray, Times Correspondent
At Rehability, Art Gagne describes the diagnostic and training apparatus that therapists Desiree Gagne, center, and Stacey Garcia utilize in occupational and therapeutic rehabilitation for patients suffering from limited mobility. [Photo by Beth N. Gray]

SPRING HILL — Gathering physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthotics and prosthetics under one roof makes such good sense that one wonders why, until now, local body-wellness professionals haven’t connected the pursuits.

Rehability, a one-stop shop at which patients can avail themselves of each of the intertwined disciplines, launched in May, is the fulmination of a long-range plan of Art and Desiree Gagne, husband and wife, orthotist-prosthetist and occupational therapist, respectively.

They had worked at their professions independently of each other for many years.

"We thought, why not fill this void?" Art Gagne said, noting that the full course of such professionals and the equipped studio to accompany them doesn’t exist outside of major hospitals. Specializing in prosthetics and orthotics — make that braces — he holds advanced college degrees in the same fields.

Desiree Gagne, with a college degree and certification in occupational therapy, specializing in stroke therapy, pointed out, "We have the ability to feed off each other."

The result is collaborative and interdisciplinary therapies. Rehability has recently added aquatic therapy, with the company’s specialists conducting patient therapies at the Hernando County Family YMCA pool.

Physical therapy, said Desiree, involves improving skills such as balance, strength and the performance of manual activities — also pain relief. Occupational therapy means regaining almost every function necessary, from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night.

To pinpoint function constraints and their severity, a series of calibrated equipment — looking like advanced versions of a fitness gym’s devices — measures weight distribution on one’s feet and whether a body is leaning left, right, forward or backward, for instance. It tells, as one example, why a person is suffering certain back pain. More devices and exercises train a body into equal weight distribution.

If training doesn’t cure the ill, orthotist Art might step in with a custom-built back brace.

"Alignment," he added, harking back to physical therapy, "is just one part of prosthetic fitting."

He recalled a leg amputee who favored his natural leg over his prosthetic limb, requiring physical retraining of his balance and stride.

Similarly collaborative, an arm amputee fitted with a prosthesis required muscle strengthening to operate the device’s elbow and claw motions.

Novel among Art’s recent prosthetic efforts, he devised a face guard for a young soccer player who had twice had his nose broken. He scanned the boy’s face via computer, modeled a sculpture of his head with a 3-D printer, carved an appropriate mask onto the model, measured the results and molded the piece at Alchemy Composites in Dade City.

As owner of that company as well, Art was able to complete the project in a week. The dual businesses enable quick turnarounds for other prosthetic manufactures.

While Rehability accepts most types of health insurance, not all procedures are covered. The face mask wasn’t, costing the patient $400, far less than repairing another broken nose, or enduring the pain, said the boy’s mother.

Physical and occupational therapies run about $65 to $85 a session, less than many massage packages, which are priced locally up to $120, Desiree said.

"Therapies," rather than a short-term feel-good massage, she said, "are an investment in you, your wellness."

The couple finds that the challenge of opening their new business is getting word out about Rehability’s presence and the range of services it provides. Toward that end, they intend to launch a series of free clinics beginning in December with a session on stroke recovery.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]