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Machine to Treat Nerve Disease Sits Unused on St. John

July 15, 2005 – A machine that helps patients with peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disease which causes numbness and pain in the legs and feet, sits unused at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John because no one is trained to use the machine.
A similar machine at Roy L. Schneider Hospital has a technician trained to use it, said Craig Turtzo, president of Anodyne Therapy, the company that manufactures the machine.
According to a Web site for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, peripheral neuropathy involves "damage to the peripheral nervous system, the vast communications network that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold or a finger is burned. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body."
Often caused by diabetes, peripheral neuropathy afflicts many others.
Turtzo said that the training to operate the machine should take 30 minutes to an hour.
"It's very easy to administer," he said.
He said the company has offered to train a therapist.
Amos Carty, chief operating officer at Roy L. Schneider Hospital, said Monday that the health center staff is currently evaluating the machine and whether there are sufficient patients to warrant training staff at Keating Smith.
"If we find it's needed, we'll do whatever is needed to serve the community," he said.
He suggested that private physicians contact the Keating health center to let the staff know they have patients who would benefit from using the machine.
Dr. Carolyn Jones at Red Hook Family Practice said if the machine is not used properly, it can burn the skin.
She said the treatment works by stimulating the nerves and capillaries at the injured site.
Anodyne donated the machines, worth $6,250 each, to Schneider Hospital and Myrah Keating Smith. Turtzo said he's been discussing a similar donation for Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
He said the machine has been at Myrah Keating Smith for about two months.
Turtzo said the donations were made in conjunction with the company's Economic Development Commission package.
He said that eventually the company will manufacture the units at its St. Croix plant. He said he expects to start making part of the machine on St. Croix when the plant opens at the end of August.
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