Technology Helps Stroke Survivors Walk Again

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

Stroke remains the third leading cause of death, and the number one cause of long-term disability.

On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds, and someone dies of a stroke about every three minutes. Those are some scary statistics, but a new device called the WalkAide System is giving stroke victims in the Brazos Valley some new found hope.

A prime example is Texas A&M Philosophy Professor Michael Hand.

"I do constant physical therapy, and it's tiring," Hand said.

For the last 18 months, Hand has been tirelessly pushing to get back on his feet again after a stroke threatened to permanently take his mobility away.

"I was unable to move my right leg and my right arm," Hand said. "I was confined to a wheel chair all the time."

But a device called WalkAide is helping to change all that. Hidden under his pant leg, the device sends out electronic stimulation that in turn lifts Michael's foot for him.

"Inside this box there's a tilt sensor so that the tilt of the limb in space tells the device when to turn on and off at the appropriate time during the walking cycle," Rehabilitation Specialist Denise Gouge with Innovative Neurotronics said.

When you look at Michael walk without the help of the WalkAide device, you can notice the struggle it is to pull the right leg forward. But seconds later when the device is turned on, Michael has a much easier time getting around, a difference he says he never felt in standard leg braces.

"There's just no contest between this device and the leg device," Hand said. "I'm able to walk from my car to my office and back when I go to work. I'm able to walk to my classes. It's really restored my mobility."

Mobility aside, doctors say there's also been a huge transformation on the inside.

"His confidence, his willingness to go forward," orthotist Matthew Zurcher said. "He's always been involved in this rehabilitation process and is going forward now as well as he can."

The WalkAide system is still relatively new, and is not covered by insurance at this time. The device currently will run you about $4,500.

Here are some important warning signs the American Stroke Association says you need to be aware of when it comes to stroke.

-Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
-Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
-Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
-Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
-Severe headache with no known cause

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