A Cutting Edge Device That Gets People Back On Their Feet

3:33 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Many of us tend to take walking normally for granted, but for some the dream of walking is just that... a dream.

In April 2011, Daniel Burke of Springfield, Va. nearly lost his life as a passenger in a single car accident.  The car rolled down an embankment into creek, where he nearly drowned.

Burke says, "In the accident, my neck was broken in the C-4, C-5 level.  About 90 percent of the time I was in a wheelchair."

Many weeks of rehab helped him move from the wheelchair to a walker, but the distances he could go was very limited.

"I was able to walk maybe 200, 300 feet before I was able to walk anymore due to fatigue, or I would constantly have leg spasms and trip up," says Burke.

He was introduced to a cutting edge technology called the Bioness L-300.  The brace wraps around the leg and connects to a sensor in the foot.  When the sensor detects trouble walking, the brace sends an electric pulse to the leg muscles to help the patient lift their foot completely when walking.  Stimulating a more complete step.

Burke says, "I was able to leave behind the (wheel)chair."

Ginger Walls, PT, Regional Director at Medstar National Rehabilitation Network says, "This device is appropriate for patients who have injury to their central nervous system.  So some impairments will be spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis."

Dr. Walls adds, "We are very happy with its performance with the patients both from a neuro-muscular re-education and exercise standpoint."

Marnie Dodson is another example.  She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002.  Four years later, she could barely walk.  A large lesion in the nerves of her spinal cord damaged her ability to control her lower legs.

Dodson says, "I walked very slow, it just took a lot of effort. I would drag my feet.  I used a wheelchair, I used a walker, I used crutches."

She started getting help from the L-300 last April.  She is now able to normally climb stairs again, for the first time in several years.

Dodson says, "I haven't fallen since last April which is pretty amazing, it was pretty common I would just trip on anything."

The Bioness L-300 and L-300 Plus are used at several rehab facilities and is available to buy for home use.  Refurbished systems are available.  Daniel Burke received his device as a surprise gift from Immanuel Bible Church in Fairfax County.