PEORIA — A staple of science fiction movies, the exoskeleton, is a useful reality in the rehabilitation wing at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center.
Stroke patient Fred Doughty, 72, the lead pastor at Glad Tidings Assembly of God in East Peoria, wore the device during a therapy session at the hospital Wednesday morning.
“The EksoGT helps with patient and therapist fatigue,” said physical therapist Jessica Spencer during a break in Doughty’s therapy session. “Patients can tolerate standing longer and can take more steps. If we didn’t have it, we would probably make slower progress.”
In addition to being supportive, the device also helps patients move properly.
“I don’t have enough hands to hold him and also adjust his hips and knees. The EksoGT is the extra hands to help him get into a good pattern of walking,” said Spencer.
The EksoGT is helping Doughty relearn how to walk correctly, she said.
“Your body is going to figure out a way to learn to do it, but we want them to do it the right way,” said Spencer.
The device has two programs, one where the therapist controls each step and another where the patient calls the shots, said Spencer.
“If he initiates the step, the EksoGT will help him finish it,” she said.
Doughty was at the church when he had the stroke Oct. 1. When he woke up in the hospital, he had trouble doing basic things.
“The progress he’s made to now is very inspiring,” said Ben Ota, a student physical therapist who has been working with Doughty throughout his hospital stay. “When I first saw him, we worked on sitting up and then getting out of bed. To see him walking in this device is a great progression.”
Though he first began walking with a quad cane, Doughty got a big morale boost when he was strapped into the EksoGT.
“The first time I walked in it was amazing because I was doing things I couldn’t do,” he said. “It motivated me to do more.”
St. Francis is the only hospital between Chicago and St. Louis to have the EksoGT. It was a gift from a former patient, local teenager Niko Elias, who made a full recovery after having a brain stem stroke when he was just 16. In an effort to give back, Elias donated his Make-A-Wish gift and started a fundraiser. With help from the OSF HealthCare Foundation, the EksoGT was purchased earlier this year. It’s been in use at St. Francis since March.
With just three therapy sessions in the device, Doughty’s brain has been re-trained to walk correctly, say his therapists. It’s a building block future therapy will build upon.
After three weeks of intensive therapy, Doughty was scheduled to go home on Friday and return to his church on Sunday.
“I’ve been sending them a video of my progress each week, and they play it every Sunday,” said Doughty. “This Sunday I will be there.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.