The day was July 16, 2015, a day Paul and Sharon Larsen will never forget. In the morning, Paul was chasing wasps from the top of his roof. He biked and played tennis. At the age of 67, Paul remained very active. But that afternoon, their lives changed dramatically.
“I had a severe stroke and my left arm, hand and leg became paralyzed,” Paul shared. He was rushed to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center where he stayed for the next two months in the Intensive Care Unit, on the stroke floor and then in inpatient therapy.
“For me to see my husband unable to do everything was, and is still, very hard to deal with,” Sharon explained.
Over the next several years, Paul would work through various types of therapy at home and at Aurora West Allis Medical Center—physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy. In 2018, his therapy team recommended an innovative piece of equipment at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center that would make a huge difference in his recovery.
That innovation was the Ekso exoskeleton, a wearable device that looks a lot like a robot. It is powered by a system of electric motors, hydraulics, and a combination of technologies that allow for limb movement with increased strength and endurance. Paul was all for it.
“I used to play tennis for hours and I kept telling them I wanted a good workout. After 30 minutes on the machine, I was completely exhausted. I got my workout!” Paul said.
Since being in the program, Paul can keep his head up higher, put more weight on his left foot, and find his balance. Using the technology, which includes a monitor, he can see if he’s going too far left or right.
Paul’s therapist, Kiersten Kirking, has seen tremendous improvement in patients who have used the device. “Patients are able to achieve a very intense level of exercise with fewer breaks and many more steps,” Kiersten explained. “The robot assists holding the patient up so the therapist can focus on facilitating improved balance and posture.”
Gaining more freedom and returning to normal
It has now been five years since Paul had his stroke. Thanks to years of therapy and the exoskeleton technology, he was recently able to walk out of his house and down a few steps to sit on his porch, with very little help.
“The Ekso helps him get his balance so we don’t always have to hold on to him,” Sharon said. “It takes some of the load off at home and really improves everyone’s quality of life.”
Paul and Sharon are grateful to be treated in an integrated health care system where he has access to this very innovative care. Your charitable support can make it possible for more people just like him.
“It is hard work, but it’s given me a chance for a better life. It’s hope for a brighter future,” Paul said.
How you can help
You can support innovative technologies like the Ekso exoskeleton – and help people like Paul live more active lives. Get started here.
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