Kelly Thomas became a paraplegic after a car accident four years, but she is able to walk again thanks to a groundbreaking treatment at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville.
Dr. Susan Harkema and her team implanted an electrical stimulator implanted on Thomas’ spinal cord. The stimulator creates an electrical field that helps the spinal cord to remember how to walk.
Thomas demonstrated to WCBS how she turns it on and off by holding a remote over the controller on her abdomen, and recalled when she took her first steps:
My lips started quivering and my face got hot and my eyes got teary and I thought “OMG, that just happened – I took steps.”
Thomas said it took hundreds of hours of intense physical therapy and mental focus to learn to control her spinal cord nerve cells:
It makes me feel normal again. It makes me feel like I can be an active member of society.
Dr. Harkema said that just standing and taking a few steps can improve bone strength, cardiovascular, lung, as well as bowel and bladder function.
The University of Louisville team says there’s still a lot of work to be done to improve the groundbreaking technology.