Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Truly Amazing

He sports a flaming orange and yellow brace...and he wears it well. He's got style, and the attention of everyone around him (especially when he's in shorts). I have to say, he does the brace good. They've become one, they are attached, and finally, they are at peace with one another (and that was quite the process, I might add).

While Matt was in Utah, he went for the usual tune-up and lube job for the brace. His mom thought to ask Rus, the brace genius, what we could do to help Matt bend his knee and not swing his hip so much when he walks. Rus was SO excited she asked, and he told her about the WalkAide, a new technology specifically designed for people with drop foot, as a result of upper neuron injury (brain injury, stroke, etc). We decided to schedule an appointment, just to check it out.

I was hopeful, but not letting myself get too worked up over it. I tend to get overly excited about things, then am SO SAD when they don't work out how I had imagined. So we went in, not expecting much. Matt's Achilles tendon is SUPER tight, and it's all I can do to stretch it out. His brace holds his foot at a 90 degree angle, which allows him to be stable when walking, but prohibits a lot of normal movement. I wasn't expecting this device to be able to lift his foot and allow it to move normally.

I am SO happy to say, I was absolutely suprised and thrilled to see how incredible the WalkAide is, and how much it helped Matt. I wish I had a video showing how he walks without the brace, because it's pretty pitiful. It's slow, cumbersome and looks a little dangerous.

Rus strapped the WalkAide on (without the brace), and we programmed it for Matt's particular gait and speed. I was LOVING this by the way, I am totally into this kind of thing. I got to mess around with all of the compuer stuff and all of the other gismos; it was a treat for me. The minute the device sent the electric stimulation to the nerve in Matt's leg, his foot pulled up normally. Rus and I both got overly excited. He said, "I have never seen such a positive response!" We had a little party, and then continued on. After it was all programmed, Matt walked around, and I was seriously like a giddy cheerleader. He walked BETTER and FASTER with it, than with his brace. He still has some patterns in his walking that will take a lot of time and conscious effort to correct, but it was amazing nonetheless. His knee bent more, his hip didn't circumflex so much, and his foot picked right up.

The basic concept is that the device sends a shock to the nerve (peroneal), which signals the brain to pick up the foot as soon as he starts to take a step (it guages the angle of the tibia). This signals the muscle (anterior tibialis, for anyone who cares) to engage, causing the foot to pick up. It makes his leg and foot flex, instead of trying to constantly be in extension (which causes his knee to hyper-extend). The amazing thing, is that it makes a circuit through the brain, and in theory will retrain the brain to make his leg work right. It has been researched and in the making for 30 yrs, and is finally approved for market. It is brand new, so there are still a lot of unknowns, but for us, it's worth a try, because this could literally change Matt's life. He will have so much more opportunity and possibility if his physical limitations can be improved. It isn't yet covered by insurance, but hopefully will be soon. We are SO excited about this, in case you couldn't tell.

Cruisin' down the hall.

(I tried to upload a video, but it was taking 95 years and I gave up.....that's how patient I am.)

After a while of walking around the muscle was all tuckered out. It will take a while until he will be able to wear it all day. The muscle hasn't worked in over 3 years, so it's a little puny to say the least. As he gets stronger though, he will be able to wear this more and more and get better benefits. I really believe that as this becomes his constant pal, as the brace has been, he will relearn to walk much more normally, attain better balance and speed, and be much more happy with his abilities. Cheers to the WalkAide!


Tomber's Heaven said...

Yeah for technology! That is so cool how that works! I'm so excited that it's making Matt use muscles he hasn't used in so long! He'll be crusin' along in no time w/ his determination!

Dan & Ashley said...

WOW!!!!!! How incredibly cool!!! I am so thrilled to hear about this for Matt. It really will change his life. It is amazing the things they come up with. I'm soooo glad you guys heard about this!!!! Tell us more as he continues to use it!

Team Avarell said...

That is so exciting!! Technology is the greatest and it is wonderful that it is working so well. Yay for you both!! :)