Phil has muscle depletion on his right side and finds walking and balance difficult. He is dependent on a frame but as a tall man (1.93m) this is causing him to become kyphotic, as the frame is too small for his height. It has also caused him shoulder discomfort and Phil therefore uses a wheelchair most of the time.
Before his accident Phil was a keen cyclist and enjoyed keeping himself active. During his rehabilitation Phil’s goal was to get back on to a bike and use a treadmill. Initially, when Phil came to the gym, we were restricted to what we could do for him, focusing mainly on upper body resistance. We had received some funding to purchase a YouBike, which is used primarily by stroke patients, and while Phil was able to use this biomechanically it wasn’t suitable for him as Phil’s leg naturally falls to the right, which made it uncomfortable for him to pedal.
We receive many patients on to the exercise referral scheme who have complex needs, and it became apparent that there was a requirement for specialist equipment which could both support the user and be adapted individually. I visited and researched what was available in hospitals and private clinics, and was impressed with the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike and the anti-gravity treadmill. These two pieces of equipment not only offer beneficial opportunities for rehabilitation but also the opportunity for those with neuro-muscular conditions to be able to become physically active, a very appealing combination! However, they are very expensive pieces of equipment which you would not normally expect to find at a centre managed by a non profit distributing organisation and registered charity such as SLL. But, our customers inspired me to begin fundraising; we were fortunate to win a successful bid from The Big Lottery, we received generous donations from both local charities and the public, we organised a charity ball and various sponsored events which enabled us to be able to purchase an FES bike and put a £10,000 deposit towards the treadmill; the balance is being paid as we raise more funds.
Phil was our first customer to use the treadmill; we hadn’t mentioned to him that it was being delivered and his carer brought him in to our open day when we invited the community to come and try or see the equipment in use. Sporting the not so glamourous shorts which resembled Wallace and Gromit’s ‘Wrong Trousers’, we zipped Phil into the air tight ‘skirt’ of the treadmill. The treadmill calibrated his weight and we set Phil at 45% of his body weight which gave him plenty of support. Very slowly we increased the speed to 0.4 kph and a gradient of 4% to allow heal strike on the belt. The smile on Phil’s face was amazing, a big thumbs up and a quote “You haven’t made my day, or my month, you’ve made my life, I’m walking on a treadmill!” He (and us) didn’t think this would ever be possible, but the treadmill has changed his life. He is able to walk with perfect posture and to his full 1.93m! He is able to take long strides where normally he shuffles, he feels socially included within the gym because we have integrated the anti-gravity treadmill alongside the regular treadmills. Phil really looks forward to his gym sessions; he can now do what everybody else does, which is just how it should be.
Juanita Prescott Corporate Health and Wellbeing Manager Stevenage Leisure Limited with permissions and confidentiality agreed.