Paraplegics Learn to Walk Again

paralyzed walk againTami Martin, 44, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a car accident in 1999, stunned her family, friends, and future husband, Rob Dietrich, when she walked 69 feet down the aisle at their wedding at Disney World’s Wedding Pavilion. It was the first time she had walked in public in 15 years.

Martin was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident, but she had reclined her seat and was left with a broken back and crushed spine. She underwent 40 hours of physical therapy every week after the accident. Doctors had told her that she would never walk again, but she was determined to prove them wrong.

Martin had to lose weight as part of her recovery process. She managed to shed 192 pounds while she was wheelchair-bound through a surgical procedure, better nutrition, and exercising, which included zumba classes, scuba diving, and dancing, as well as support from her fiancé.

Prior to the wedding, Martin had undergone three weeks of intense physical therapy, in which she had stood up and taken a few steps. None of her physical therapists was available on the day of the wedding. She decided shortly before the ceremony that she would walk all the way down the aisle. Martin tucked a walker under her wedding gown to help her as she made her way to her future husband.

Martin has even bigger goals in mind. She hopes to start a family, walk longer distances without assistance, and possibly become a motivational speaker.

Dustin Shillcox was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 2010 and was told he would never walk again. He is now using a pacemaker-like device that is bringing him closer to his goal of walking.

Shillcox received an epidural stimulator implant from the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center in January 2013. A box a little smaller than an iPhone was implanted in his stomach with a wire running from the box to his spinal cord.

When the system is engaged, the box sends electrical stimulation to his spine, which enables him to move certain muscles. He can only stand while holding onto something and cannot balance well, but he is hopeful that with further medical advances and more physical therapy he will continue to make progress.

Neuroworx, where Shillcox receives physical therapy, and the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center are affiliated with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation that supports research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the ReWalk system, which consists of motorized braces that are controlled by a wearable computer. The technology enables paraplegics to stand up, sit down, and walk without assistance. The system can be purchased for home use. Similar devices have been used at rehabilitation centers across the United States.

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