HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We saw it glamorized on TV in the 70's. Now, it's technology that's really happening. The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific in the Liliha area has rolled out two, new bionic legs to help patients undergoing intense physical therapy.
Patient Carolyn Ma sounds like a Cyborg when she walks. The 50 year old is rehabbing with the bionic leg, and it gives her the confidence to move."You have to think about how you're operating your body and how you can accomplish things that seem very easy to some people but is really a challenge to me," explains Ma.
The fact that Ma's even walking is a miracle. Last March, the former tri-athlete was cycling on the Big Island when she was hit by a delivery truck. Both her hips, tailbone, arm, leg, and ribs were broken. Her lungs were punctured.
Ma has been doing traditional rehab for months, but in December, she started therapy with the bionic leg and has seen marked improvement. It's mostly used on stroke patients who've lost their ability or independence to move about, but researchers say patients with multiple sclerosis and myopathies have also been helped. The 40 thousand dollar piece of equipment … which straps onto the majority of a patient's leg … gives patients a new range of motion using special electronics.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation expert, Dr. Nancy Byl, says "All of the sudden, you have that sense of stability and security, that you're not really afraid of the device … but what it's doing is assisting them, and they feel more stable, more secure, less fearful of falling."
The bionic leg isn't very heavy. It only weighs about seven pounds, but it helps with weight distribution and balance. It also takes rehab from traditional to high-tech. The new Innovation Center at the hospital has the only bionic leg technology in the state.
"Our main goal here is to bring the best back to Hawaii, so that people, when they go through a stroke, they don't have to go to the mainland," says Innovation Center executive director, Teresa Wong. "They don't have to leave family and friends in order to get the best level of care."
One look at Carolyn Ma, and you can tell the difference with and without the bionic leg. She moves with far more ease. Baby steps, yes ... but it's a step in the right direction.