Walking Becomes a Possibility for Spinal Cord Patients - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/28/04

Walking Becomes a Possibility for Spinal Cord Patients

About 11,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury each year in the United States, and more than 700,000 will suffer a stroke. Both conditions can leave people unable to walk.

Eric Wellington knows this all too well, but he is strapped up and ready to take on the world. Eric fell into shallow water this summer and was partially paralyzed. But today, he'll get up and walk again. Neurologist Peter Gorman says the Lokomat puts people like Eric back on their feet.

"It is a technology that has a considerable value to people with various neurological impairments," says Dr. Gorman.

That includes spinal cord injuries and strokes. Therapists strap patients into a robotic treadmill, where the constant motion is believed to stimulate the spinal cord.

"It changes the whole equation, the whole body image, the whole functional capacity of any individual," says Dr. Gorman.

Eric takes a walk three times a week.

"He has some motor control, although it's not normal, the hope is that this will stimulate any type of motor pattern in his spinal cord to pick up and improve and recover more than if he did not have this intervention," says Dr. Gorman.

The Lokomat will give Eric the support he needs until he's ready to take this walk alone.

"Once I start walking again, which I know I will, I will never forget this experience. Never forget this experience," says Eric.

There are only a handful of medical centers in the country using the robotic walker. One in Texas and that's at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The other locations include Institute of Chicago, VA Hospital in New Haven, National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington D.C., VA Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, Kernan Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, VA Hospital in Cleveland, VA Hospital in Palo Alto, California, UCLA Medical Center, VA Hospital in MIami, Fl, University of Miami - Miami Project.

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