Diseases

Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis Patient Learns to Walk Again

Until this last month, New York resident, Steve F. spent most of his day in bed or his chair in the living room. The double whammy of Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis essentially crippled him, leaving him unable to walk without the aid of a walker.

When Steve needed to use the toilet, he struggled with his walker to go even that short distance. If someone came to the door when his wife Margarita was out, he didn’t feel confident enough in his balance to even open the door. As you might imagine, Steve had resigned himself to living this way the rest of his life. He didn’t think there was a solution to his problem.

Fortunately for Steve, his wife didn’t give up. She kept looking for answers, knowing in her heart, there was something they could do to help him regain his balance and his ability to walk. During her research, Margarita read about neuroplasticity and how the brain can rewire itself under the right set of circumstances.

This study of neuroplasticity led her to the work of an Israeli Computer Scientist named Yoram Baram. For the last 12 years, Professor Baram worked to perfect a virtual reality device that helps PD and MS patients improve their walking gait. Using built-in motion detection, sophisticated programming, and a special set of virtual reality goggles, movement disorder patients like Steve now have the opportunity to rewire their brain circuits and regain their balance.

Margarita found Professor Baram’s Medigait website and decided to try the Medigait Virtual Walker hoping it was the answer to their prayers.

When the device that Steve affectionately calls “the gadget”, arrived he was too sick to try it right away. In fact, it took almost a month before he felt his strength had improved so he could try the device for himself. With a hopeful Margarita watching, he donned the see-through goggles and started walking.

Margarita says that about 10 minutes into his first session she noticed a distinct improvement in his balance and stride length.  In fact, she says she hadn’t seen him walk like that in many years. By the end of his second session, his walking improved a great deal. Although Margarita noticed what she called “a huge improvement”, Steve hadn’t yet noticed much of a change.

Margarita says when Steve finally noticed he was walking better; she described it as almost normal. Steve opens the door to the apartment on his own now. He even goes down to get the mail and outside to wait for his wife when they need to go somewhere. Before the cold and the snow hit, they went for walks along the waterfront near their home. As you can imagine, this has improved both their lives to a significant degree.

Even more amazing, two more surprises have taken place in the last couple weeks. First, Steve’s drop foot has improved to the point Margarita says she can’t even notice it. Now that’s very interesting, because the GaitAid Virtual Walker wasn’t designed to help drop foot, nor was it thought to have a positive impact on this problem. Margarita does believe Steve’s brain has developed a positive neuroplastic response to his practice with the device.

Drop foot is a specific nerve problem, often associated with Multiple Sclerosis. It’s characterized by the inability to pick up the front of the foot causing the sufferer to trip and fall.

When Steve was told the GaitAid device shouldn’t help his drop foot, his response was an emphatic “Yes it does!”

Amazingly enough, Steve is now walking without any aids at all. His walker and cane have been relegated to the closet. He practices up to 4 times a day now and continues to gain confidence. Quite amazing for a man that doesn’t like to exercise. Margarita says his gait impairment has diminished greatly, and although he doesn’t yet walk completely normal, like he did before his double-disease struck him down, she is hopeful he will be able to walk and remain active for many years to come.

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