Teen goes from wheelchair to walking in three weeks

11:46 PM, Jan 12, 2011   |    comments
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It's the leading cause of debilitating illness in this country but imagine being told as a teenager you'll spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair.

Eighteen-year-old Ariadne Popma, of Michigan, was determined not to let that happen. A stroke paralyzed her left side two years ago, most likely caused by a blood disorder she has called beta thalassemia.

Electro-stimulation therapy to shock her muscles into working again didn't work. She couldn't feel her leg, let alone think about standing on it, until she came to Cleveland and met Dr. Jeffrey Bolek in the Cleveland Clinic's Motor Control Program.

In three weeks, his therapy not only helped her stand, it helped her walk again. Unlike traditional therapies that electrically stimulate individual muscles, Dr. Bolek's program forces Ariadne's brain to tell her body what to do.

"If you can give success in one or two muscles, a lot of the other things fall into place," Dr. Bolek says.

He also adds his method works faster which may be economical to the patient paying for healthcare. However, the therapy may not work for everyone.

It works as Ariadne walks on the treadmill and watches a monitor in front of her. Two moving lines let her know if she's hitting her target.

But what keeps her going is the fact that her walking is powering a DVD player that shows a movie. It plays as long as she walks correctly.

"This one actually gives me feedback to use what I need so I can use my muscles accordingly to my brain," Ariadne says.

The therapy isn't for everyone but it also helped Ariadne regain control of her left arm. Enough that she can now shuffle cards.

WKYC-TV

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