02 May 2009

Amazing Technology Lets MS Patients Walk Again

CityNews.ca Staff

It's one of the most devastating diseases in the world, a silent thief that gradually robs patients of their ability to do all the things they once took for granted, from playing sports to simply going for a walk.

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, although experts still aren't exactly sure why. They do know it can affect a person's balance and leave them in a wheel chair. And there's no cure.

But now there may be some new hope and it's thanks to the remarkable determination of some patients not to give up - and an amazing invention out of Alberta. Sylvia Bauer is the former and she's putting the latter to good use.

It's called the WalkAide, a miniature computer that stimulates the muscles in the leg and allows some MS sufferers the chance to walk normally again.
"I developed drop foot," she explains. "It means that the muscles that make your foot and your muscles move don't work any more." She had to rely on large awkward braces to move around and getting anywhere was an agonizing chore.
And then she heard about WalkAide, a small device you wear around your legs. It teaches the computer to adapt to your normal gait.

It then electronically stimulates the muscles, forcing your legs to work as close to the way they used to as possible.
"We're artificially replacing muscles that don't work," outlines Yim Lok. She's an orthotist, a person who makes and fits appliances for people with weakened muscles.
And it's not just MS patients who benefit. The WalkAide can also help those with other mobility related ailments, like cerebral palsy or a stroke.

So how well does the WalkAide work? Bauer's braces are gone and she's able to traverse the floors of her home easily. She was also able to take part in the 5K MS Walk earlier this year, something she never would have dreamed possible before.
The device isn't cheap - it costs $4,500. But Bauer thinks it's worth every penny. "This gives you a sense of just living your life normally and not thinking about it every time," she relates.

Want to know more? Take a virtual walk here to find out if the device will work for you.

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