Paralysis is a devastating condition that is often permanent. It is a common occurrence after serious spinal cord injuries such as broken necks or backs. Therapy for paralyzed patients is often fairly limited, but that doesn’t stop researchers from pursuing a greater treatment for victims of paralysis. Enter the SafeGait 360 Balance and Mobility Trainer, recently installed at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Austin Campus.
The SafeGait is a body-weight support and fall protection system available for free to patients in the Austin area. It works by being able to tell the difference between a patient’s intentional downward movement and when a patient is falling. It corrects the patient when they fall, allowing them to push their limits more easily than other pieces of rehabilitative equipment. The device is helpful for any patient who has suffered neurological injury such as stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis or spina bifida.
It’s an interesting idea, but does it work? Ask Daniel Curtis, a patient who has broken past his plateauing therapy using the SafeGait.
Daniel Curtis’s Story
Curtis nearly died at the age of 29 while diving into his backyard pool. He slipped and broke his neck, and unable to swim, began to drown. Fortunately, he was discovered by his girlfriend, who resuscitated him and called for medical assistance.
Curtis was partially paralyzed in the accident. He has some function in one leg, but cannot walk, and has nerve damage throughout his body. After two years of outpatient rehab, he felt that he had reached the peak of his capabilities. That is, until he found the SafeGait.
“It’s happened [falling], it’s not fun, I think for the patient or the therapist,” said Curtis. “The SafeGait kind of takes all that away. You could try to face-plant on this thing, it won’t let you. Knowing that, I’m able to kind of push myself beyond the threshold I would be able to otherwise.”