As reported in WMS, Kathy Miska was beginning to have difficulty walking. This time, she knew what was happening. She’d seen the same thing happen to her sister, who went on to lose her ability to control her body, eyes, and lived for a decade in a state she described as a vegetable. Her sister had multiple sclerosis, a rare disease that often causes mobility loss, sometimes to the point of total lack of control. While the onset is unique to each patient, Kathy felt the slow emergence of symptoms making normal life more difficult. So she signed up to spend four days a week retraining her body and mind with a robotic exoskeleton.
Multiple sclerosis is a rare neurological disorder that disrupts typical signaling from the brain that communicates with the body. The damaged signals cause the patients immune system to attack it sown nerve cells, at times causing irreversible damage. It can effect all parts of the body, appearing differently on each patient. Common symptoms include weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking and seeing, loss of coordination, and improper bladder control. While some MS is progressive, there are other types that are relapsing or remitting, meaning the symptoms come in episodes intensely, followed by phases that are symptoms free. For those with the progressive version, symptoms continue to take away normal functioning slowly over time.
A Robotic Exoskeleton Rehabilitation
Kathy said to WMC, “I was always swinging my leg around to walk because I can’t pick it up.” Her sister’s experience had given her a window into what would come next. She wanted to preserve her ability to walk and found technology to help her. Kathy took part in an eight week study which fit her with a robotic exoskeleton, designed to help her learn to walk again.
The patients in the study visited the researchers three times a week for half hour sessions to practice with the technology. They practiced and practiced the motion that would become drilled into their muscle memory to teach them their new method to walk. The exoskeleton serves as a training tool to speed up their rehab by preforming these exercises. This not only helps them when using the device, but gives them skills and muscles to move on their own too when they don’t have the technology available. The technology has been granted FDA approval, though it is still undergoing more research to see its potential uses for the brain.
Kathy was not disappointed.
Kathy said, “I’d be screaming to my husband, oh my God, my leg’s working, my leg’s working. It gives you so much hope when that’s happening.”