Following a stroke, a 39 year old father of two from Kettering has become the first to be fitted with a pioneering electrical foot stimulator which has allowed him to recover from a paralyzed foot and regain his social life, drive again, and watch his son play football.
Sometimes called "drop foot," is the inability to lift the front part of the foot. This causes the toes to drag along the ground while walking. Foot drop isn't a disease. Rather, foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem. Most commonly, foot drop is caused by an injury to the peroneal nerve. The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that wraps from the back of knee to the front of the shin. Because it sits very close to the surface, it may be easily damaged. Surgery may be recommended to try to repair or decompress a damaged nerve. In cases where foot drop is permanent, surgery to fuse the foot and ankle joint or to transfer tendons from stronger muscles can improve gait and stability.
Gait - How a person walks is called the gait. Many different types of walking problems occur without a person's control. Most, but not all, are due to some physical condition. Some walking abnormalities include: Propulsive gait - a stooped, stiff posture with the head and neck bent forward. Spastic gait - a stiff, foot-dragging walk caused by a long muscle contraction on one side. Scissors gait - legs flexed slightly at the hips and knees like crouching, with the knees and thighs hitting or crossing in a scissors like movement. Waddling gait - a duck-like walk that may appear in childhood or later in life. Steppage gait - foot drop where the foot hangs with the toes pointing down, causing the toes to scrape the ground while walking, requiring someone to lift the leg higher than normal when walking.
Justin Ashton, a 39 year old father of two from Kettering, has regained his mobility following a stroke after being one of the first in the UK to be fitted with a new and advanced Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) system that helps correct his gait by lifting his foot and supporting his knee movement.
Developed by mobility experts Ottobock, the MyGait system uses functional electrical stimulation to revive a patient's nervous system and lift the foot at just the right time in the walking cycle. Following the fitting, Justin has been able to take part in everyday activities again, including watching his son play football, going on days out and is leading a more sociable and active life.
Justin suffered a stroke whilst working as an electrician.
He was driving to work when suddenly his driving became impaired and he lost perception in his vision. Although he felt no pain, it was clear something was wrong and an ambulance arrived within minutes. He was told he had suffered a stroke and rushed to Kettering General Hospital, however it was only in his second day in hospital that he realized the full extent of what had happened. Justin spent two weeks in hospital before being transferred to rehabilitation where he stayed for a further six months. It was a slow process as he had to learn how to move and walk all over again.
"Following my stroke, I thought my life was over. I was unable to even sit up by myself and had to re-learn all the simple tasks you take for granted all over again," states Justin. "It would be fair to say I was a fit and active 33 year old when I suffered the stroke; I loved my job as an electrician, I was a keen golfer and would also coach my son's football team at the weekend. When I was unable to get out of bed it was devastating to not be able to do my daily activities and only be able to see my children when they visited me in rehab."
Despite rehabilitation, Justin suffered from drop foot, which is the inability to raise the foot due to a weakness in or paralysis of the dorsiflexor muscles in the leg and the foot. This condition often occurs as a result of damage to the central nervous system following a stroke. Justin was taught to walk with a walking stick but spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He was then introduced to the MyGait system by PhysioFunction, Northampton based providers of specialist hands-on neurological physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
"I was introduced to Ottobock's MyGait by my physiotherapist. When I did a trial the sensation was comfortable and made walking natural," continues Justin. "All of a sudden I could walk unaided and it was a complete revelation. I was so elated and overcome with emotion due to going from having no hope, to believing that my life could get back on track. I was lucky enough to have friends who raised the money to fund the product and treatment for me."
MyGait provides an electrical impulse that is delivered to the nerve; in turn, the nerve stimulates the muscle into movement. When the heel switch leaves the ground it sends information to the cuff which then stimulates the nerve to lift the foot at the right time in a natural manner. A unique advantage of MyGait is that in addition to the dorsiflexor muscles, other muscle groups can also be stimulated using a second channel. This makes it possible to provide additional support when walking, Such as in stimulating muscles to better control the movement of hip or knee joints.
"Drop foot can leave sufferers with complex mobility challenges, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence," states Lynn Vale, MyGait Business Development Manager at Ottobock. "We are delighted that the MyGait solution is helping people like Justin get their life back on track and providing the ability to walk unaided."
Justin adds, "Following being fitted with MyGait, I went back to normality. I'm able to drive a car again, attend my son's football matches and socialize with my friends; it's the little things that I used to take for granted that I most enjoy being able to do. My life is back on track and I now have hopes for the future that I can go back to work and re-ignite my love of golf. I also spend some of my time educating physiotherapists on the benefits of MyGait and showing what a difference it can make to their patients. I hopes this will help others in the same position as me future."
For more information on Ottobock's range of innovative solutions that restore mobility please visit www.ottobock.co.uk or follow @ottobockuk