Cyborg-like device improves walking

May 31, 2009 9:27:35 AM PDT
Most of us take walking for granted. It just comes naturally. But, for those who have had a stroke, walking can be anything BUT natural.

A local rehabilitation hospital has found a way to make it better.

These days, Alicia Day of Olney appreciates every step she takes.

"I had 4 strokes and a seizure in 2006," Alicia remembers.

The strokes she suffered were likely due a condition causing inflammation in her blood vessels. After the strokes, she was severely disabled.

She says, "I lost my memory, I had no movement on my entire right side."

After years of hard work, Alicia walks, but is still weak on her right side.

To improve her walking, Alicia is at Moss Rehab Hospital, using a device called the Lokomat. Moss Rehab was the first in the Mid-Atlantic region to have Lokomat.

Lokomat's computer moves Alicia's legs in a walking motion, over and over.

For years, therapists did these motions with their own hands.

But Dr. Alberto Esquenazi, Moss Rehab's medical director, says Lokomat takes the strain off the therapist.

"It allows patients to stay for a longer period of time, repeating a movement, that is very much like walking on a regular surface," Dr. Esquenazi says.

Lokomat brings Alicia's leg forward, but she has to pull it back.

"At one point, I wasn't able to pull my leg back at all," remembers of her first sessions with Lokomat.

Now, a smiley face on the monitor tells Alicia her muscles are doing the work.

Dr. Esquenazi believes Lokomat, which was originally designed for spinal cord injury patients, but will be a big boost to stroke patients like Alicia.

"As the population of the U-S ages, we're going to see more strokes, and so finding out what we can do to help those patients is, from my point of view, very important," he says.

Alicia says she feels improvement after every session on Lokomat.

She says it's hard work, but worth the effort.

The maker of Lokomat says some centers are also using Lokomat for M-S, cerebral palsy patients.

Follow Action News on Twitter

Get Action News on your website

Follow Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.