David was diagnosed with MS in 1994 and first exposed to FES Technology in 2007 when he was looking for ways to stay active. “I had tried to stay active, but it was difficult: I couldn’t ride a bike, I couldn’t jog and maintaining muscle mass was difficult in my extremities. I had a lot of atrophy in my legs and you could see my thigh bones.”
When I first read about RT300 FES, it really piqued my interest so I contacted the Kennedy Krieger Institute to see if I would be a candidate for physical therapy using the RT300. At the time, the facility was focused on spinal cord injuries and they weren’t taking MS patients. But I was persistent, and after calling every week for three or four months, I finally got an appointment, and they put me on the RT300 system.”
David used the RT300 at KKI until acquiring his own system in February 2011.
We recently interviewed David to see how he was feeling since he started using the RT300.
How have your symptoms changed over the time you have been using the RT300?
“Overall my neurologist say’s I have been on a 5 year plateau. I think I have taken some neurological nicks here and there due to MS but I am very happy to be still vertical and walking with crutches. Would I still be walking if I had not used the RT300 for the past 5 years? I don’t know but at a minimum I would definitely be worse from a leg strength and coordination perspective if I did not use the RT300. I would guess there is approximately a 30% chance I may not still be vertical and walking.”
How often do you use your RT300 now and for how long?
“When not on vacation or business travel, I use my RT300 for 1 hour for legs and 30 minutes for arms up to 4 times/week. My overall average is lower due to vacation and business travel. i.e. I take 4 weeks of vacation each year so it is a challenge to “catch up” on 16 missed sessions.
Are you still able to manage your spasms without medication?
“Yes, when not on vacation or travel for extended periods of time.”
Have you lost any mobility in the last 12 months?
Not on average (in some ways a little worse & in some ways a little better), I do feel worse when I am away from the RT300 for an extended period of time due to work and/or vacation. The RT300 is important to me physically and mentally from a health perspective. It feels good to know you are really doing something positive to stay physically able and healthy.
You mentioned having reduced pain since using the RT300, is this still the case?
“Yes, spasms are not fun and forcing your body to move or walk while your legs are very tight and stiff for the first couple of minutes until you loosen up does not feel good but you know you have to keep moving. The stiffness and spasms start to return when I can’t use my RT300 for more than 7-10 days while on business travel.”
What would you say to someone with MS who is considering using the RT300?
“Find a way to gain access to an RT300 and try it. For me, it was the only physical way I know that I could reverse or regain physical deficits due to MS. At a minimum, it has provided a way for me to stay at about the same fitness/functioning level over the years. You know and appreciate the benefits when you don’t use your RT300 and you feel the repercussions. Hopefully their experience on the RT300 would be similar or even better than mine”
Would you like to make any other comments about how the RT300 is impacting on your life?
“It helps me to stay positive and is a great tool for me to stay in the best shape physically I can be. I will say that the dedication to use the RT300 for 1 hour for legs, plus ½ hour for arms, with the extra electrode sets for abs & back, up to 4 times per week is a challenge sometimes. I would recommend the patient has support to help stay motivated and help with the RT300 set-up, connection and placement of electrodes, etc.”
David Foster is an engineer—and he thinks like one. He can tell you all about the technical aspects of multiple sclerosis: the way it attacks the body, the current treatment options and the potential opportunities for a cure in the future. He can discuss generating nerve tissues, how signals travel to the brain, and the way the circumference of his thighs shrunk after he was diagnosed.
David first learned he might have MS in 1994, and he wasn’t thinking about facts and figures then: he was thinking about his eleven-month-old daughter. “I was worried I would lose my vision since I already had optic neuritis once and lost vision in my left eye. I would just stare at her sometimes so I would never forget what she looked like.”
“When I first heard the diagnosis,” says David, “I was decimated. I thought MS was a death sentence. I thought I would become bed-ridden and eventually die.” After the news sunk in and the doctor’s suspicions were confirmed, David’s engineering brain kicked in and he began to plan. “I needed to find a way to secure the future for myself and my family. I did a lot of research on MS and made a plan.
We bought a house as maintenance-free as possible. I had just finished my masters so I thought I was in good shape career-wise. My path forward was to stay employed, continue working out and eat well. I started performing more engineering management work because it can be less physically demanding and you can work from a desk.”
David felt the benefits right away on the first day he used the RT300 in 2007. “The RT300's were a godsend. It was unbelievable, I felt for the first time in years I was getting full muscle contraction in my legs. We started with five minutes first. We used the RT300 twice a week for several weeks. Each day I would try to go another minute under my own power.” David noticed so much improvement that he added FES arm therapy to his routine.
“When I started using the RT300 I made good
progress in terms of strength and I felt great after a workout. I would get an
adrenaline rush like I was competing again in sports. I used to love sports. I
get that same feeling now on the RT300. My leg diameter doubled and I could see
quads and hamstrings contracting as I pedaled! It sounds simple, but I love
being able now to sit in a restaurant with my wife and not have to shift my
weight because of the bone on skin pain while sitting on a hard surface.”
Since he began using the RT300, David found he could stand longer and walk faster. Going up steps was easier and his cramping had disappeared completely. His muscle tone improved and his spasms were reduced for hours after using his RT300. David says the pins and needles in his feet disappeared for several days after a session on the RT300. And the meds that sapped his strength and slowed his thinking were a thing of the past: “With the RT300, I don’t need to take them.”
And David’s dream? “My hope is that a cure for MS and other similar diseases is found soon and that a neurological recovery process is found that will help everyone that has a mobility challenge. The important thing to remember is that you can’t just waste your time waiting for a cure. So in the meantime, I stay in the best condition I can so I’m a candidate for treatment when it becomes available. I want to be prepared and ready. You can’t hide in the dark, sitting in the corner and waiting for that day. Every day is a gift. It’s up to you what you do with it: feel sorry for yourself or be the best you can be.”