LOUISVILLE, Ky. —The University of Louisville and Frazier Rehab unveiled new equipment Thursday that’s giving hope to children who are paralyzed.
It’s paving the way for mobility for one little boy who was told, from birth, he would never walk, stand or sit up on his own.
Frazier Rehab has been helping people with spinal cord injuries, regain mobility through locomotor training, but it was never tailored for children, until now.
As 4-year-old Evander Conroy’s imagination runs wild his muscles are engaging.
Suspended by a harness, over a treadmill, he practices standing, then walking, as therapists move his legs.
The hope is that one day they’ll be ready to move on their own.
It’s all part of locomotor training, which is nothing new for Evander. He and his mother have been making the trip from Australia to Louisville for three years now, spending each summer at Frazier Rehab, but Thursday was different.
He broke in brand new equipment — a treadmill made for children with spinal cord injuries.
“Can you imagine putting a child that weighs 22 pounds on a system made for adults,” asked University of Louisville professor of neurological surery, Andrea Behrman.
That’s how it’s been since the inception of locomotor training. It was funding and the work of UofL neuroscientists that made this latest piece of equipment possible.
“There are special nuances that will help us measure certain things like pressure under a child’s feet, cameras to measure motion, record muscle activity during these activities,” Behrman said.
So far, Evander can stand and take steps with help, which is a feat that was considered impossible when he was born with a tumor that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“To everyone in Australia and all the docs who told us it couldn’t happen, it is quite amazing,” said Clare Conroy, Evander’s mother.
Conroy said Australian doctors will be coming along for some of his appointments in hopes of implementing similar equipment in his hometown of Sydney so he will no longer have to travel to Louisville for his therapy.
Over the next year, researchers will be working with engineers and manufacturers to turn the technology into a commercial product.
The idea is to put it in everyday practice for physical therapists to use with patients.
By Erica Coghill