Woman goes from wheelchair to walking in less than a year

By Hannah Horne - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There's technology being used in the Midlands that's helping athletes, the injured and the disabled. It's the same kind of technology used by NASA to train astronauts, and it creates a weightless feel.

It's a workout day for 78-year-old Hazel Street of West Columbia. But she's not using any ordinary treadmill. "You get in it, and you feel like you're on air," said Street. "It's wonderful."

It's the anti-gravity treadmill. While on it, Street feels almost weightless as she gets used to her new prosthetic leg. "I had a blood clot they couldn't get in to remove," said Street. "So they had to remove the leg"

Street was wheelchair bound for months. Then she heard about a kind of new therapy that might be able to help her build strength, mobility and confidence. "I've been one that gets back up," she said.

She did. Street works out with physical therapist Shelley Burgess each week on the treadmill.

The machine works by creating a sealed pocket of air pressure around the patient. They are zipped in, and the air fills around them. As they walk, that air pressure can be lowered so that the patients body weight is all but gone. "They feel like they can control their feet and legs," said Burgess. "They are just getting help with it. It's the positive air is lifting them up."

A special feature - a video camera - is pointed at the patient's feet for analysis of their stride and step. "It will help people rehabilitate faster and earlier," said Burgess. "Clients can do this while they are still injured."

They're clients like Street. She has gone from a wheelchair to walking in less than a year, and she credits the help of the machine. "I'm more independent and less scared," said Street. "And I look forward to getting in it."

Many military installations and hospitals also use the anti-gravity treadmills to help rehabilitate our wounded warriors.

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