BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Imagine not being able to lift up a fork or write your name. It's a reality for many people with Parkinson's Disease. People like 64-year-old Sara Hart, who suffers from uncontrollable tremors in her hands, often leading to frustrating and embarrassing situations.
"Anxiety exacerbates the tremor," Hart explained. "And anytime you get in a situation like that, you just feel like you're out of control."
An Illinois-transplant, Hart sought treatment at The Neuromedical Center in Baton Rouge. She was formally diagnosed with Parkinson's in April 2013, but suspects symptoms first started to appear 20 years ago.
Hart eventually met occupational therapist Krista Madere. Madere watched her grandfather suffer through the same disease, often using weighted utensils and modified pens to counter his tremors.
"I've always wanted to come up with something more, and do more," Madere said.
She wanted one orthotic to replace all the others, and decided a weighted glove could be the solution. Hart happily agreed to play guinea pig.
"We started experimenting with putting weights on my hands, and our first prototype was two packs of AA batteries strapped to my hand," Hart recalled.
After five weeks of tinkering, the Readi-Steadi anti-tremor custom glove was born.
"It's moldable and fitted to the patient's hand," Madere said as she slipped the glove on her own hand. "It's fitted on the back of the hand. It does not restrict range of motion. They have full finger, full wrist range of motion."
It's also easily customizable. Different amounts of non-toxic weights can be added or taken away depending on disease state, medication changes and other factors. The position of the individual weights on the glove can also be moved to balance against a specific patient's tremors.
"What takes the most time is the trial and error, and strategically placing the weight where the patient needs it the most," Madere said.
For Hart, it's been life-changing.
"It's almost like someone holding your hand," she said as she prepared to demonstrate certain tasks she normally can't do.
The glove kept her hand steady as she used a spoon to eat rice from a bowl. It also helped her peel an apple, apply nail polish, type on a keyboard, and even thread a needle.
Dr. Gerald Calegan, Chief of Neurology at The Neuromedical Center, said he's proud Madere took the initiative to develop the glove.
"It really has potential for a number of different tremor disorders like Parkinson's and Essential Tremor, and even Dystonia," he said. "It's still in a development phase, really, and we're very anxious and excited to see how it works in different people."
Production of the custom glove takes less than an hour, and Madere plans to fit as many patients as possible. Those interested must have a doctor's order for occupational therapy, and the cost can be billed through insurance as an orthotic.
Madere hopes to continue developing the Readi-Steadi glove, eventually making it available to the millions of people who suffer from debilitating tremors.
"Ten million people are diagnosed in America with Essential Tremor," she said. "And 60 percent of military veterans have tremors."
Hart now serves as a proud testimonial for the glove.
"Krista has just been very compassionate and just very knowledgeable of her field, and that she has just designed this for me, it's just wonderful,"she said.