Health: Bioness device helps people walk

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- The first thing you notice about occupational therapist  Ashley White is her infectious smile, and, her bubbly spirit. But White says, not so long ago, you probably would have noticed something else first: the way she walked.

"So right now, my walk, if you see me walk at home, it is not pretty, it is not pretty at all," she says.

Actually, it is a miracle White is walking at all, after suffering a stroke three years ago.

“I did have a stroke. I was 23 years old,” White says. "I was completely paralyzed on my right side."

And while doctors were able to remove the tumor that caused the stroke, they could not as easily restore her ability to walk. “I was using a lot of assistance in the hospital to begin with, a lot of people around me, helping me walk. I transitioned to using a cane with four feet on it,” she remembers.

White eventually was able to use a leg brace to help her balance and deal with her "spasticity," which is common after a stroke, says Kay Wing founder of Swan Rehab, “But one of the common things that happens with spasticity is the foot turns. And so if they are not braced or have some kind of intervention they land on the side of their foot.”

At Swan Rehab, they focus on rehab for those who have suffered brain injury or neurological trauma. And that is where White actually ended up working herself, after her stroke. "I thought, I want to help people with this recovery process too, because I have  been helped so much."

But she found more than a job here. She also found a device called the Bioness L300. "It raises the foot when it is supposed to raise the foot, it relaxes  the foot when the foot is supposed to be relaxed," she says.

White turns on the unit with a small remote, and then a sensor in her shoe sends an electrical impulse to a cuff just below her knee, which stimulates her leg muscles. "So they all three work together to help me when I am advancing my foot to get my ankle up and out,” she explains.

She showed us how she walked with the unit turned off, and sure enough her leg did turn out, as her ankle rolled and her foot turned in. With the Bioness on, she had a small hitch in her step, nothing more. White says it is making all the difference in her recovery.

“Even though I might not be able to be back where I was 100 percent, I'm getting close, and I am able to live my life how I want to live it," she says.

The Bioness costs about $6,000. Some insurance plans do cover it. And if you're wondering if it might be right for you or a loved one, they offer free screenings.  You can call 1-800-211-9136, they will set you up with an appointment at Swan Rehab.