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Robot walker offers new hope to stroke patients

Friday, August 02, 2013

A local rehab hospital has new technology which could help stroke patients regain more natural movement.

And the first patients to use it are already giving it a 'thumbs up.'

51-year-old Jackie Quinton is facing the challenge of her life: learning how to walk again, one step at a time.

In late April, she was teaching a Zumba class when her students noticed something wrong.

"She said her right side felt funny," said her daughter, Emily.

Jackie also fell, but brushed it off as exhaustion from doing too much. Four days later, she was in the throes of a major stroke from a blood clot in her neck.

"She was 90% blocked in her left carotid," said Emily.

Jackie's right side was virtually paralyzed. Conventional physical therapy did help.

But this week, at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation in Allentown, she began therapy with a new variety of the Ekso robot walker.

The first edition of Ekso was designed for people paralyzed on both sides.

However, the new one can be programmed by therapists for the individual side and amount of walking assistance the patient needs.

Higher power makes a more natural step. Lower power works the patient's muscles more.

"So their walking is more efficient," said Good Shepherd's Sue Golden, "and hopefully, we're going to get a better outcome quicker."

Jackie and her daughter say they're seeing small improvements after just two sessions.

"I think it's going to be awesome for her," said Emily.

"It's made the difference in some people where nothing else worked," said Golden.

Good Shepherd is the only rehab facility in our area with the stroke software for Ekso.

They'll start using it earlier in the treatment process for stroke survivors, and hopefully that will mean faster and more complete recovery.

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