Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, uses the Lokomat machine at the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria. - Submitted photo

WATCH: Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first extended steps in nearly three decades

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell took her first extended steps in 27 years this week, using a special mechanical device.

Stilwell visited the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria for a session on the Lokomat—a device that provides highly repetitive and physiological gait training for patients with neurological issues. The user is suspended in a harness over the treadmill, and the robotic frame is fitted to the client’s legs. The robotic frame then moves the client’s legs (with or without the client’s active participation) in a natural walking pattern.

Using the Lokomat, Stilwell was able to walk 800 metres (1,140 steps), more than she’s done in nearly three decades.

RELATED: Paralympic champion and Parksville MLA Michelle Stilwell retires from international competiton

“It’s a different perspective being that tall when you’re so used to sitting all the time,” Stilwell said. “It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me.”

Stilwell was involved in an accident at age 17 that left her a quadriplegic. Losing the ability to walk didn’t curtail Stilwell’s deep love of sports and she eventually went on to win gold medals for Canada at the Paralympics in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing.

RELATED: Stilwell to be inducted into Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame

Stilwell said she had tried a walking brace about 22 years ago but that, because of the state of technology back then, it was quite stiff and basically felt like a body cast.

“In my old brace I couldn’t flex my ankles, I couldn’t get that realistic gait pattern that you get from walking,” she said.

She said at first, using the Lokomat felt uncomfortable because her hips were tight, but after some adjustments to the machine she was able to loosen up and could take larger steps.

Stilwell said she was recommended the Lokomat by MLA for Surrey-Panorama, Stephanie Cadieux.

“I had a bone density test done almost two years ago and that’s something fairly common for somebody with a spinal cord injury, you kind of monitor things because when you’re not walking, your risk of osteoporosis increases,” Stilwell said. “About a year ago, I also got a standing frame for work so that I would do more weight bearing during the day to help decrease my risk of osteoporosis because my bone density test had shown I had jumped quite a bit. Then when Stephanie was telling me about [the Lokomat] I thought ‘that sounds fantastic.’”

Stilwell said the benefits of using the Lokomat for her are that it will help with flexibility and weight bearing, which could help decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

She said she hopes to continue using the device but will have to look into it further as sessions are fairly expensive at $175.

“Some health care benefits will cover it when you do it with a physiotherapist so I’m looking at whether that’s an option,” she said. “I certainly use my standing frame every day that I can when I’m here in Victoria.”

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Just Posted

Celebration of life announced for Parksville man who died following reported hit and run

Investigation still underway following death of Spencer Alexander Moore

Halloween festivities abound in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

From aerial shows to trick or treating, there’s plenty of event options for all ages

Mushroom festival returns to Coombs

Displays, talks, mushroom identification and more

ELECTION 2019: NDP’s Gord Johns re-elected in Courtenay-Alberni

Conservative Byron Horner finishes second, with Green Party’s Sean Wood third

VIDEO: Is the stethoscope dying? High-tech options pose threat

World-renowned cardiologist believes the device is just a pair of ‘rubber tubes’

85-year-old woman perishes in house fire in Cumberland Wednesday

Police and fire personnel were called to the scene of a fire… Continue reading

‘Cartoony’ mushrooms popping up across Vancouver Island are highly poisonous

Fly Agaric mushrooms can cause hallucinations, gastrointestinal pain and death

Beers on the job, smacking crotches: 10 police misconduct probes in B.C.

Recent report by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner highlights a number of investigations

Seizure of cannabis edibles, including mac-and-cheese, prompt warning from B.C. RCMP

Potato chips, cheesecake and candy infused with cannabis also seized back in August

B.C. parents sue city and province in 12-year-old daughter’s drowning at lake

Beverly Park drowned at Rotary Lake in Dawson Creek in August 2016

Island mom warning others as suspicious powder found in mail

“I was very uneasy … it could be coffee whitener or it could be something else in the bag.”

VIDEO: Chill with polar bears through an Arctic live cam

Cam reopens just ahead of Polar Bear Week

Most Read