Condition: Traumatic Brain Injury
Solution: WalkAide® System
Defying the odds is a way of life for Cleburne, TX resident Barry Callaway. After a 2006 traumatic brain injury left him in a two-month-long coma, he was told he’d never talk, walk, taste or smell again. Five years later, Barry has regained the ability to do everything but smell — and he’s not ruling that out any time soon.
Barry was injured on February 14, 2006, while test-driving a new motorcycle. A botched stunt sent him over the handlebars of the bike and landed him in the local ICU.
“I had 25 fractures in my skull,” recounts Barry. “I broke my hip and right shoulder. I broke eight ribs on my left side, four on my right. My lung collapsed and I bruised my liver. Other than that, I was okay.” Barry Callaway wasn’t ready to let a difficult diagnosis keep him down. Bolstered by his winning attitude “and a whole lot of faith,” Barry devoted himself to rest and recovery. And he began defying the odds. Within a few weeks, Barry was talking again — “too much,” he claims. He spent a total of six months in the hospital. For several months afterward, he underwent intense physical therapy aimed at giving him his mobility back. Working his way up from a wheelchair, Barry learned to walk again using his favorite golf putter as a cane. The sport of golf has been — and continues to be — a vital part of Barry’s story. An avid golfer, Barry hit the links five times a week before his accident. While he regained a lot of movement in the year after his accident, Barry wasn’t able to golf again due to persistent foot drop. Affecting some 500,000 people every day, foot drop usually results from nerve damage in the affected leg. It leaves its victims unable to lift their toes or ankle, making walking strenuous, inefficient and clumsy. Barry describes his condition as “like dragging an 8-pound weight around everywhere you go.”
Thanks to a device called WalkAide®, Barry Callaway is now walking unassisted — and he’s back on the golf course. About the size of an iPod, WalkAide straps to Barry’s leg just below-knee. The device uses an accelerometer to sense when its users are taking a step. It then stimulates the user’s peroneal nerve with a gentle electric shock. The user’s toes lift and the foot bends in time with the user’s step.
According to Barry’s clinician, Anna Vasquez, WalkAide is useful in many cases of foot drop, including many traumatic brain injury, partial spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. On his first visit to Hanger Clinic, Barry was revealed to be a good candidate for WalkAide. Using a program called WalkAnalyst, Vasquez programmed the WalkAide to meet Barry’s specific walk pattern. That wasn’t the last Vasquez would see of Barry, however. Thanks to his active lifestyle, Barry was a return visitor. “After patients get used to WalkAide, they increase their pace,” reports Anna. “The muscle gets stronger, and walking speed increases. In two weeks, the program almost always needs to be tweaked.”
Over a year after he first received his WalkAide, Barry is back on the golf course. According to Barry, “the only drawback is that I can still only golf on days that end in a Y.” In Fall 2010, Barry competed in a charity golf tournament raising awareness of traumatic brain injuries. And he continues to lend inspiration to those who, like himself, were told they’d never be able to walk again.