GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Learning to walk again after a serious accident can be a long and tedious process but new technology available in West Michigan is helping to change that with bionic legs.
At first glance the new Lokomat Pro technology at Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids may look a little like a private video game room, but the virtual game does more than just rack up points for the player. It challenges them to make a mind body connection that helps them learn to walk again. "You just kind of forget what it's like to walk perfectly normal again." In February Alice Gale broke her neck when she was thrown from her horse during a competition and her doctor gave her a very bleak prognosis. "The neurosurgeon told my husband that I'd never walk again," said Gale.
But she was determined otherwise, and after seven weeks of in patient rehabilitation Alice moved on to the Lokomat. "I think it does a much better job of retraining your brain."
It takes about 15 minutes for physical therapist Kristy Simpson to strap her in. Then the computer begins to make the motions of her legs walking. "So at this point she's at 100% of the robot working so the robot is doing the majority of the work. I'm going to drop her down slowly and have her do more and more work," said Simpson.
During her half hour on the Lokomat, Alice plays through a variety of virtual situations that retrain her body to move from left to right and even give her incentives to walk faster. After ten sessions she already notices a difference. "Even after the first time or two it really makes a difference especially if you haven't been walking for a while," said Gale.
And it makes a different to physical therapist Kristy Simpson who says she can spend more time fine tuning Alice's therapy.
The Lokomat can be used for patients with spinal cord, brain, stroke or other neurological injuries that have made them unable to walk.
It's part of Mary Free Bed's two year plan to expand and renovate the Wealthy Street campus with new rehabilitation equipment and therapies.