Monday, March 9, 2009

Busy week, part two: Walking with MS

Browsing the internet recently, Scott found something called a WalkAide. It is supposed to help people with "drop foot" walk. Drop foot is when the foot drags and causes a person to stumble or fall. We've recently learned that Scott may not have it but that the problem is likely in his hip or somewhere other than the foot. But he made an appointment to be evaluated just in case the device could help. He says he just wants to be able to keep up with the grandkids.

The WalkAide is two electrodes held on with a cuff that has a controller attached. When the leg is behind the perpendicular the power is on and a shock is sent to the muscle. The leg moves forward, the shocked muscle lifts the front of the foot, the leg is in front of the perpendicular and power is off. Repeat.

Before the test run they poked around Scott's leg with another shocking device looking for the best spot to place the electrodes. It was interesting to watch the reactions of his foot depending on where the shock went. Sometimes just a wiggle, sometimes a swing to the outside and sometimes a hugh 4 or 5 inch lift of the toes. Very interesting but apparently it hurts! Why didn't I think of that? Duh. Eventually they found the best spot, then attached the electrodes, cuff and controller, and had him walk down the hall. Amazing. His foot lifted right up, and he walked a bit faster too.

They timed a walk unaided and then a walk with the device working. The tech said he thought another device on the other leg might help. So back to poking around, then fitting the second device and off he went. It did make a difference. Each device can be fine tuned with the stimulation lasting longer or shorter, the intensity adjusted, the start position can vary, etc. So they spent some time experimenting with all that and of course walks down the hall to test it all. He was exhausted before they were done and he paid for it the rest of the day. Sometime during the next day things let up for him but the muscles still seem affected. The device seems like it can work wonders but then there is still the balance problem. And the shocks bring on the exhaustion which causes falls, which is one of the things the device is helping to avoid! Stop the merry-go-round, it's time to get off!

It really is an ingenious idea and must work wonders for some people. We'll see if it's a viable option for Scott.

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