Apr 8, 2010 11:02 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Electro-shock device helps paralyzed patients

For the last two years, 62-year-old Kathy Heydorn has struggled to overcome a spinal cord injury.

"A car with a driver who was on drugs, careened right onto the bike path and ended up hitting me," said Kathy.

The former triathlete has learned to walk again, but still has some paralysis in her left hand.

Now, a device is sparking her muscles to work again. Electrical stimulation targets specific muscles that need to be reawakened. The intensity level is whatever Kathy can tolerate ... but it doesn't only work in therapy. The effects are lasting.

Occupational therapist Heidi Thomas said, "We're going to stimulate the muscles that control the extension or the opening of your fingers and also the bend or the flexion of your fingers."

Kathy said, "They put the unit on and they got it fired up and my fingers just went straight out and I was absolutely thrilled. I was like, 'wow, look at this.'"

The device is meant to help people with neurological disorders such as stroke, brain or spine trauma. In Kathy's case, after six weeks of using it, she says it improved her function 75 percent.

Kathy said, "I'm getting more function back in all of the fingers, which is really exciting."

And gives her hope that one day she'll be back on her bike.

Kathy said, "I want to do things and I wanna get back on my bike and until I can squeeze those brakes, I can't get back on my bike yet."



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