Tracy Bradley

Tracy Bradley has endured a tiring cycle of surgery and rehabilitation. A non-cancerous spinal tumor and cyst resulted in doctors performing three surgeries to remove the cyst, only to see it grow back each time. The surgeries helped relieve pressure on her spinal cord, but each surgery did greater damage to her body.
Recovering from the first two surgeries was difficult, but she made great progress by working hard and having access to great doctors and physical therapists. She was able to get back on her feet quickly after the first two surgeries, but recovery from the third surgery was different. The surgery had taken a greater toll on her body, and after months of physical therapy, she still used a walker. She wanted to be able to walk with a cane, but her chances became more remote as time passed.

Just as her hopes had been almost completely dashed, the TAMC physical therapy team suggested trying one last thing: a round of physical therapy with LiteGait, a device that can help people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal tumor, amputation, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions recover their ability to walk with proper balance, mechanics, and posture. LiteGait can also be used with those who experience weakness, poor balance, and frequent falls.
“When I first started using LiteGait, I couldn’t even bend my knee,” said Tracy. “Within three sessions, I was able to bend my knee. It has been two years since the surgery, and I really thought this was it, that I was never going to get back to where I was. I thought it was a done deal, and that there was nothing more I could do but slowly decline.”
The equipment consists of a metal frame with wheels and a bar that is suspended above the patient’s head. Straps that resemble seat belts come down from the bar and attach to the patient’s midsection. By raising the straps, the therapist can take some of the weight off of the patient’s legs. The patient then stands over a special physical therapy treadmill and walks at a very slow speed.
The therapist can take a hands-on approach to ensuring the patient is walking with the proper technique during therapy. LiteGait ensures that the patient has proper posture, balance, and leg movements. Through repetition, the patient gains strength with each round of therapy. The patient’s body is able to “remember” the therapy, and after several weeks, many patients are able to re-learn to walk with the correct walking patterns.
“They say that practice makes perfect, and that’s exactly what it is, practicing the correct mechanics over and over again so the brain can re-form those pathways,” said Michelle Varney Slike, a physical therapist at TAMC. “Walking is such an intricate thing, and there are so many things you need to pay attention to. One little problem at the hip can totally throw off your foot. LiteGait allows us to improve many of these problems.”
LiteGait can be included in a patient’s regular physical therapy plan when appropriate, and there is no separate charge for using the equipment. It is covered by insurance whenever other types of physical therapy are covered. LiteGait can be used continuously for as long as a patient can show progress. It is used in conjunction with other therapy techniques both in the hospital and in the home.
According to Michelle, outcomes have been positive. The therapy goals for every patient are different, but LiteGait has successfully helped several patients improve their ability to walk and become more independent.
“We have seen really good outcomes with the use of LiteGait in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques,” she said. “When Tracy came to us, she was dependent on a walker and had poor balance. Tracy now walks mostly with a cane safely and independently. She feels stronger and has more energy.”
For more information about LiteGait, please call TAMC’s physical therapy department at 768-4169.
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