We began a crowdfunding campaign in August to help raise start-up costs for NeuroHope. The first equipment piece on our wish list, a piece that Nora and I consider an integral part of any rehabilitation and wellness clinic, was a NuStep recumbent cross trainer. Now, we are thrilled to announce that our first machine has been generously donated by NuStep!
I reached out to NuStep VP of Sales and Marketing Steve Sarns shortly after we launched the campaign and told him my story. I explained what we are building in Indiana, and let him know the role NuStep had throughout my personal recovery. A NuStep was the first piece of equipment I could power (ever so slightly) on my own after total paralysis. Over the course of two years, from nursing home to rehabilitation clinic, a NuStep remained part of my daily therapy as I recovered movement and built strength and endurance.
Last month Steve welcomed me to NuStep headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan to tour the facility. I was blown away. Not just by the campus, factory, and facility (which was much larger and structured than I imagined), but by the entire staff. This is a team that is proud of what they have created and is genuine in their mission.
Steve’s father Dick Sarns founded NuStep in 1987, but the idea was born in the 1960’s when Dick began to research exercise products for people in cardiac rehabilitation. He wanted to create an easily accessible recumbent bike-style machine that could provide a safe and effective workout for people of all ability levels. The bicycle seat and pedals, however, were a problem; they were transformed to a chair with a stepping motion. Upper and lower body movements were connected to move in a reciprocal pattern, and NuStep was born. Over the last 20 years the machine has evolved and the company has grown. Every machine is made and shipped from their Ann Arbor campus. Sarns says around 40 new machines are built and shipped around the world each day.
The NuStep is not built specifically for people living with spinal cord injury. But, what makes the machine special is the accessibility it provides for people recovering from and living with varying degrees of disability. In rehabilitation a NuStep can serve as a therapy tool that some patients may benefit from early in their recovery. Incomplete spinal cord injuries need every opportunity to get their bodies moving. They must spend every moment they can sending signals through their healing central nervous system to promote as much neuroplastic gain as possible. One of the most memorable milestones in my recovery, on par with the moment I took my first step, was the first time I used a NuStep.
The first few months of therapy after my accident consisted mostly of range of motion exercises and assisted movement from therapists. That was the extent of my abilities as a quadriplegic with only trace amounts of movement from the neck down. After three months, however, movement had faintly returned to portions of my legs, and my body had finally regained the ability to better regulate blood pressure. I still lacked the ability to sit upright on my own, but my body could finally tolerate being in an upright position without passing out. My arms were still paralyzed but my therapist thought my legs might be strong enough to give the NuStep a try. She transferred me to the seat, put my legs and hands in place, and there I sat – in a machine and on my own for the first since my accident. It took a few seconds, but the pedals budged and soon all four limbs were gliding to the movement my legs provided.
It was the first moment I no longer felt completely paralyzed. I was barely moving the machine at the lowest setting, but I was moving it. It rejuvenated me. It gave me new goals to focus on and served as the impetus to the next level of my rehabilitation.
My unique experience aside, the main benefit of these machines is their role in wellness. They were built to provide people of all ability levels a way to achieve a low impact, full body-work out. It is just as important for people with spinal cord injures to remain healthy through exercise as it is for the able-bodied population. No matter the level of motor return, all spinal cord injuries require an incredible amount of daily maintenance. A NuStep is an elliptical machine or treadmill for the disabled. The motion loosens muscles, alleviates spasticity, improves circulation, prevents pressure sores and promotes overall health. The machine has adaptations that can be easily added for individuals lacking leg or hand function, making a full cardio workout possible for nearly all injury levels.
We plan to have our NuStep available when NeuroHope opens this winter. Whether it be for open-gym wellness purposes, or as a warm-up before a therapy session, we are excited to have the addition. I can’t thank the Sarns family and the NuStep team enough. It is an incredible gesture from a company making a difference in the lives of their clients.
We hope this NuStep will be the first of several for our facility.