It's not everyday that you are able to witness someone's first steps after a life-changing injury, and watch revolutionary technology make it happen.
That is what took place at NeuroHope on May 11th. A video I put together to capture it is posted below.
Macy Huff, 17, is one of the fortunate few who has been able to continue therapy programs regularly ever since her C5/6 spinal cord injury in 2013. She came to NeuroHope last month, and she was already in great shape. The determination that Macy has put into her recovery and health over the last two years is remarkable, and it shows.
She doesn't have much function below her injury level, but she has worked hard to maintain her upper body strength, balance, and flexibility. Most individuals injured at C5 have little to no movement below the deltoid muscles in the shoulders. Although there may be some preservation in the biceps, a C5/6 injury typically has significant paralysis in the arms, hands, core, and legs. That means transferring, balancing, and sitting can be a challenge.
With that in mind, seeing what Macy can accomplish should leave you in awe. Transfers are not a problem. She sits upright easily. Low-blood pressure is a concern of the past. She is even able to spend time in standing with the help of custom braces that are usually not considered for cervical injuries. Because of this, NeuroHope DPT Nora Foster reached out to ReWalk Robotics to see if Macy would be eligible to try their exoskeleton walker. The ReWalk Exoskelton is a cutting-edge assistive device that is making worldwide headlines, and helping spinal cord injured individuals stand, step, and walk. It is a robotic device that is powered at the hips and knees. When a patient is strapped into the device and is able to weight-shift, the robot takes over. Like a scene from a science fiction movie, the hum of the electronics kick in and the robot extends the patient's legs into action.
Don't let the term "robot" fool you. The device is reliant on patient input and ability. A significant amount of core strength and balance is necessary for the person to safely walk. As a result, ReWalk is typically only cleared for paraplegics who have full upper body innervation. Quadriplegics like Macy are rarely considered. So, it was thrilling when ReWalk DPTs Craig Peters and Lina Alsauskaite agreed to come to NeuroHope to provide an evaluation for her. It is incredible to see the robot in action, and to see Macy taking steps for the first time in two years.
This video puts the "simple" task of walking into perspective. You may take the ability to walk for granted every day of your life.
I hope that changes when you watch the fortitude of an individual doing everything she can to get that ability back.