Submitted by Cathy Cuff-Coffman

This is Part 5 of Cathy’s multi-part blog series, documenting journey with a Baclofen pump implantation. You can read Parts 1-4 here.

Look, Ma, No Stick (or Walker!)

Today I started with my favorite part of rehab: 9 AM Physical Therapy with Kate and her protegee, Brian.

Brian is in his last year of schooling and is doing his hands-on training under Kate, a very positive and knowledgeable therapist. Brian’s at the point in his training where he suggests my program to Kate, and she usually agrees. (A bonus: Brian is a jazz trombonist and pianist and pulls up a mutually agreeable playlist!)

Most of my leg rehabilitation focuses on my right leg, which is still slowly breaking free of the spasticity “armor” in which it has been trapped.

We use the Bioness functional electrical stimulation system. The team straps two cuffs on me: one on my upper thigh and one on my calf. Electric stimulation is sent via a tablet to the cuffs, with a tolerable strength that enables my weak muscles and nerves to react and function properly.

The technology helps eliminate foot drop and encourages sleepy nerves to start “feeling” how to work.

The sensation doesn’t hurt; it’s like a LOT of targeted “pins and needles” sent to the areas of my leg that needs help.

This morning was our fourth session with the Bioness. In previous sessions, I would use a walker to navigate the gym.

“How do you feel about going it alone?” Brian asked. “I’m good with that,” I replied.

After a few practice “walks” between the parallel bars, we set off: Brian to my right side, with his left hand gently on the small of my back, and Kate following behind with the wheelchair.

And slowly, like a couple of nerdy prom-goers, we slowly walked around the gym.

It wasn’t graceful. It was slow. But for the first time in four years, I was able to walk without any balance aids.

Dr. Kryger added 20 more micrograms of intrathecal baclofen into my spinal cord and then said I will most likely have to stay at the rehab until next Tuesday, longer than I expected.

But, as I learned in Girl Scouts, “Turn that frown upside down!” Hershey offers weekend therapy, and I’ll get even more time with the Bioness system.