At the Physio Stroke clinic, several months had passed.  A Physio Stroke FES (Functional Electrical Stimulator) device was on my mind.  I'd done some research on the internet, and I was curious about it. Would a FES be a good thing for me to try at the Physio Stroke session?

Every week I went for sessions with the student-physios. Though, there were very few discernible changes, I felt as if I was improving, minutely, week after week. Stroke recovery after nearly twenty years is very slow but there is improvement all the time.

I could feel getting I was getting stronger. Exercises were slightly changed as required. Also, the student physios suggested to me to take off my shoes at home and practice barefoot walking some of the time.

At first I was concerned about falling and needing to walk upstairs and downstairs a lot of the time. Once I'm there, upstairs or downstairs, there was no problem, just a few minutes for me to take off the leg brace or put it on again, as long as there is a seat or stool.

One of the early session in 2015 involved trying out an early type ofFES.   I had read a bit about it during my research into FootDrop devices that could help to regain some movement. I was excited.

The student physio would be handing me over to another student, at a later time, as she had finished her stint with me. She was hurrying through the normal exercises, timing me as I did obstacles, stairs and the like.

Then out came the FES machine/device. FES is a technique that uses electrical currects to activate nerves innervating extremities affected by paralysis – used in Footdrop cases. Self adhesive skin electrodes are placed on the side of the leg. Wires that get connected up to a stimulator. Stimulation causes the foot to lift and stabilises the ankle when the foot is returned to the ground.

The sensation was quite weird, yet wonderful. For the first time in more than 18 years I was able to lift my foot, step, and to try to walk in a normal fashion. The foot would lift up automatically, in bursts, at what the stimulator device was set at. But I was only able have the stimulator on for a short time, as my right leg tired quite easily and the muscle tone was high. But, it was a start!!

Neurotrac fes

Yes, there has been an improvement.  In one session a student-physio took me out of the gym to grassland in the garden outside. Wearing my daytime shoes but without the AFO. She took me to the grass and with her help, managed to cover a bit of ground. She was pleased with my progress. One thing to point out: she took me to ground where the grass was quite high. Not having the sensations to guide me (I have only maybe 50% sensitive of touch, on my right leg and foot), I was afraid putting my right foot out, in case there was a dip in the ground, I didn't see it, and I could twist my ankle – this has happened before. The mantra which I practice today is: put your impaired foot forwards first... and bring the good (unaffected) foot after.

Yes, sight is very important to me, as I didn't have full function in my legs. When I see a dip, I can change directions. At home, I have a pair of water (reef) shoes when I walk outside in the garden without my AFO. The grass is cut quite short, to enable me to see whether there are any bumps, and dips.

Pre-Stroke:: Parasailing, Australia 1988

Pre-Stroke:: Parasailing, Australia 1988

On a subsequent session another student-physio had something surprising for me to try. It looked like a harness of some sort.  Hmmm... quite similar to a parasail harness ... which I did in Australia years ago before my stroke

All that was missing was the harbour and a parachute and a willing boatie... not quite what you'd find inside a rehab facility.

However, this particular harness was designed to give stability and safety for patients using the powered treadmill, by being tethered to a steel arm above the treadmill..  

Treadmills aren't the safest of appliances even for the able bodied, so letting stroke patient loose on a treadmill without a harness wouldn't be doing them any favours.

With the student's help positioning my feet in a normal walking position – I got the hang of it.  Ha! We tried that for a couple of sessions and he wrote up my progress. 

aut physiotherapy students - walking gait session