Meet the Ekso: New Hope for Stroke and Spinal Injury Patients

You have to have hope. Without hope, I
don’t know how I would have gotten to this day. I’m Alicia Buescher. I’m from Fort Worth,
Texas. I had surgery last July 2017. I developed a blood clot in my spine and
I became an incomplete paraplegic. When someone can’t tell you 100%
that you’re going to get that feeling back, it’s terrifying… it’s terrifying.
When I woke up from surgery I couldn’t feel my legs. That was the first thing I
said to my husband. I told my surgeon, get me into Texas Rehab Hospital. This is
where I’m going to get the best care. And what I found is that there are wonderful
therapists, wonderful physicians. Everybody offers you hope. I came in last
year. I was paralyzed and now I can walk with the help of a walker. And then my
goal is to get out of my wheelchair. The Ekso is very different from any other
therapy I’ve had. We do mad exercises. We do standing exercises. I do walking
exercises, but the Ekso is different because it actually gave me the feeling
of walking again, and nothing else could do that. I was standing, I had my
feet on the floor, and my legs were moving. It’s hard to find hope when
you’re in the depths of despair. The Ekso gave me hope. I feel like I’ve
come full circle. I left here not walking and I’m gonna walk out of this building
when I go home next week. My granddaughter is 8 years old. She is
everything to me. That’s part of why I will work as hard as I have to… it’s
because I don’t want her having a Mimi that can’t take her places and do things
with her. I had gone into the surgery center to have a spinal injection and
when I woke up I couldn’t feel my legs. I couldn’t move my feet, I couldn’t move my
legs. I knew that I was gonna have to go to rehab — that was pretty obvious — and I
checked around with a few people and they said this was a great rehab. From
the beginning, this hospital has been focused on quality. We want to be
able to, you know, treat the patients that are from here, be able to offer them the
most functional improvement, grow our programs to where we can fulfill them,
any need that comes across. So we’ve gone through and gotten special
accreditations in brain injury and stroke. We’re pursuing one now in spinal
cord injury. That’s a service that we feel like we’re giving back to the
community, and that’s kind of been our mission from the beginning. Here at Texas
Rehab obviously we just focusing on mobility, you know, and improving people’s
functional safety. And our outcomes over our inception have been,
you know, exceptional, on top 1% of the nation, and it’s cutting edge pieces of
equipment and obviously excellent staff that are focusing on their recovery
that have helped spearhead that. My physical therapist one day said I think
we might put you in Ekso. I didn’t know what to expect from the Ekso. I loved the
way it felt when it stood you up because at that point in time I couldn’t stand
up by myself. It was sort of freeing to think that, ok, maybe if this can stand me
up, I should be able to learn to hold myself up. When Marty first came in, she
had very little movement in her legs. It took 2 people to get her to stand. I
think she walked 12 feet on the parallel bars initially. We measured her, put her
in the device… the first time, she walked probably 125 steps, and then we got her in it again the next time, and she walked 450 feet, and she completely surpassed my expectations. She was doing so much work, she felt so great about it. She was here
for just a little over 2 weeks and she left the facility walking with a walker
over, you know, 400 feet. I think the exoskeletons are excellent
devices to kind of help assist what we naturally do with the patients anyway.
It helps expedite the process and speed it up because we allow a greater range of
motion and more flexibility, and where we can perform these activities, and to
allow patients a true fluid range of motion — that they wouldn’t necessarily be
able to provide with other other devices — I think the biggest benefit from
what I’ve seen with our clinicians is just the amount of repetitions that
they’re able to get in and the time it takes to get to that point. But we want
to maximize the time that we do have with them, so probably the biggest
benefit has been the fact that we can get to that point sooner and get more
time doing the things that we know are going to help that patient. The thing
that stood out the most about Ekso GT for me was how much variability there was in
it. It was being able to do variable assists, changing their assistance to no
assistance to free. There were just so many different options you could do and I
didn’t see that with anything else. So when I was looking at what the future
holds for all of these different devices, I definitely saw the Ekso being an outlier
and that it was far more progressive than the others. I would definitely
recommend with any patients with spinal cord injury and stroke to utilize this
equipment and obviously, you know, here at Texas Rehab we we are very, very proud
to have it and provide the service to our patient population. I am very
satisfied with the help I got here. If I had to… put it this way… if I had to do this
again for some reason, God forbid, I would come back here because of the rehab that
I got. I’m not going to tell you it was easy because it wasn’t. It was hard. There
were several times that I thought I just want to sit down.
But I wasn’t gonna do that. Upon discharge she accomplished up to 300
feet with a rolling walker, which was a remarkable gains for the time
period that she had. You know, I got to be honest. For me personally, if we’re
able to really be successful — whatever the metrics show — if they get to the
point where they can go back to doing what they were doing before, then that’s
really what we’re all about. We played charades, even when I was up
here in the hospital, we played that heads-up game at home, we did a scavenger
hunt, so I mean I was happy to go on my walker, you know, and on my feet and
stuff and we we did that numerous times. But there’s a lot more things that I
have to do with her so I have to keep working.

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