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

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘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 was involved in an accident at age 17 that left her a quadriplegic. Losing the ability to walk didn’t curtail her deep love of sports and she eventually went on to become one of Canada’s most-decorated Paralympic athletes, winning multiple gold medals for Canada in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing.

Stilwell visited the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria for a session on a 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.

ALSO READ: 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.”

ALSO READ: 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 everyday that I can when I’m here in Victoria.”

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

VIDEO: Asphalt plant protest takes place outside Mission City Hall

Group from Steelhead oppose proposed project, want public hearing reopened

Westbound Highway 1 roll-over crash slowing commuters in Abbotsford

Accident occurred just west of Mt. Lehman Road, left lane blocked

World-renowned violinist to perform at Abbotsford prison

Gidon Kremer’s concert on Jan. 29 is part of Looking at the Stars’ program

Suspected dine-and-dasher who pulled gun on staff arrested by Abbotsford police

Police recognized man from description of neck and arm tattoos

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Deer carcass strung up at Surrey fire hall prompts investigation

Investigation underway following complaint a Surrey firefighter hung a deer carcass in a fire hall

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Most Read