Diagnosis: Traumatic Brain Injury
Age at onset: 12

My son Andrew suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident in March 2001, when he was 12 years old. After hospitalization and an extended period of physical therapy Andy was left with cognitive slowness, a slow speech pattern and extreme left side weakness. Weakness on the left side left him with an impaired gait and a heightened risk of injury from falls, due to his inability to use his left arm to save himself.

Andy broke his left leg, both tibia and fibula, in 2008 and then his right leg, both tibia and fibula, in 2009 in a ski bike accident. Both of these injuries added to the problems with his gait pattern.



RT300

In January 2012 an RT300 on loan from Restorative Therapies was installed in the National Sports Center for the Disabled NSCD, located in the Fraser Valley Recreation Center.  All the skiers from the NSCD were using the machine for the lower body therapy.  Everyone in the Valley knows Andy, so he was invited to use the RT300 for his arms, once we received medical clearance. 

Before Andy started using the RT300 his left arm had little muscle tone or shape. His left hand was turned in that typical fist that you see in TBI or stroke patients.  His fingers were extremely small and they did not open unless I opened them during stretching, and they were always very tight. The way Andy would pet the dog was using a closed fist. He could not lift his arm in a forward motion without arching his back with a back leaning motion.

In April 2012, Andy had surgery on his left leg to correct his gait, which involved a calcaneal slide and a rectus femoris transfer. Unfortunately Andy then had to battle a staph infection, and was on medicine for that until December 2012. The surgery and recovery period added to Andy’s muscle and tendon weakness, and disrupted his program with the RT300.

Today, after 12 months on the RT300, Andy can open and close his fingers on his left hand and they are much closer to normal size. He is now able to pet the dog with an open hand.  His left shoulder, bicep area is also closer to normal size. While he still has difficulty lifting his arm, it is also very much better.  On a scale from 1-10 with 10 being normal, I would say Andy started the RT300 program at 1 on his fingers, hand, arm and shoulder, but now I would rate him at 5 on them all.

You might think that is not that great, but today Andrew would use his left arm to try and save himself if he slipped, instead of just falling. The final outcome is Andrew still falls but his left arm assists his right arm and slows down his fall so he is less likely to hurt himself.

Andrew is now using the RT300 to stimulate his legs to help build muscle on the left side.  To do this we have set a goal to get Andy to the Frazer Valley Recreational Center 3 to 4 times a week, so that he can do the leg program twice, to see what results can be reached, and continue his arm program.

I have been asked how Andrew finds the stim given he has sensation in all of his muscles. The answer is well, he says it tingles a bit but he perseveres with the workout and he certainly likes the benefits. Andy does not find it hard work to use the RT300 and he recently went the equivalent of 15 miles and did not appeared tired. Typical of a man in his twenties!

We all know the benefits from physical activity that our muscles are there to be used, and if you stop using them they will just waste away. For people like Andrew with a brain injury it is even more important to be dedicated to take every opportunity to get up, be active and keep going.

Andy leads a very full life and enjoys his job folding towels with the local YMCA. He is determined to fight to be as independent as he can be. The RT300 makes it possible for him to build strength in weak muscles giving him the opportunity to increase his independence. Now that is worth fighting for!

Mary Curran
Proud mother of Andrew