“It feels good,” Bryan says. “[To] get a sense of normality again ... plus I’ve got four kids.” One day, he hopes to walk his daughters down the aisle.
Bryan’s goal is to build enough strength and balance to use his reciprocating gait orthosis, or RGO, with crutches. This device, custom-fit to him, is a hip-and-legs brace that alternatively moves his legs forward when he shifts weight accordingly.
“For me, [the exoskeleton] is making me feel a lot more comfortable walking in my own braces,” he said.
When Kelly advocated use of the exoskeleton, Bryan said he wanted to try it right away.
“[Kelly] has gotten me a lot farther than where I thought I would be,” he said.
Daniel Drake Center was at the forefront in offering this life-changing device to physical therapy patients. The UC Health post-acute care facility treats patients after tragic injury and illness so they can return home, staying with them through physical therapy even after they’ve left.
On this June afternoon, the workout for Bryan and Kelly, who grabs handles in the back of the bionic device as support, is much lighter than it first was. Bryan is relearning how to walk in this new way, needing less and less help from the machine.
“At first, it was completely weird,” he says. He would leave physical therapy exhausted.
Now, he just needs to rest for an hour or so to feel re-energized.
“Crutch right, crutch left,” Kelly says, with hands gripping the machine, her left leg about two feet in front of her right to brace herself just in case—though Kelly remarks she’s only minimally supporting Bryan’s weight these days.
Bryan has walked the length of the physical therapy gym, out into the waiting room hallway and back again with the use of a walker. Now, he’s making the trip again with bilateral crutches that loop around his forearms.
His eyes are fixed to the ground as he steps, concentration in his brow.
Kelly prompts him to look up, use his triceps more.
For the second time, Bryan has walked through the gym and out into the waiting area. He pivots for the return trip.
“I’m not even doing the weight shift. That’s all you, bud,” Kelly says, as they make their way back down the hallway.
A beep, a chirp.
Bryan takes somewhere around his 500th step.