Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life as a stroke survivor: Relief

Hallelujah! I am getting some relief from recent frustration with my Bioness L300 foot-drop system.

Oldest son Walt and me, March 30, 2013. (Photo by Walter Skupien)
  The electronic fashion accessory hanging around my neck in the photo above is the control unit for my Bioness.

Transmitter signals that my heel has struck the surface I am walking on.
The system electronically stimulates nerves and muscles that help my stroke-affected left leg walk better. A sensor in the heel of my shoe is wired to the transmitter shown above. The transmitter alerts the control unit when my heel strikes.

The control unit tells the receiver on the cuff around my calf to zap the appropriate muscles and nerves to lift my foot.

During a September trip to camp in the Smoky Mountains, the Bioness electrodes suddenly started stinging my leg like riled up wasps.

My cuff holds the electrodes in place. 
There were no wasps, though. I discovered a slight rash on my upper left calf where the e-stim system’s cuff fits just below my knee and snugs partially around the calf.

Since then I have been using my heavy plastic brace instead. It inserts into my shoe and fits from calf downward and under my foot. Unlike the electrical stimulation that lifts my toes up as I step forward, the brace is rigid and holds my foot in a fixed position.

Walking with the brace takes more energy, tires me more quickly and doesn’t contribute to my balance as much as the e-stim system does.

The rash has taken more than a month to heal, and today I wore my Bioness for the third time since the attack of the electrical wasps. It is exhilarating to be able to step out with more confidence and speed.

I removed the cuff after three hours. After an hour I put it back on for another three hours.

Skin eruptions under the electrodes are not uncommon among users of the e-stim system, but until now I have never had problems. I had forgotten, though, that when I first acquired the Bioness system, I had to build up my wearing time gradually.

I hope that easing back into longer sessions of wearing it will prevent return of the rash. So far, no wasps today.

Regardless of what comes next, those hours with my Bioness working properly helped me to stride right out of the funk I had spiraled into!


  1. You're like the Bionic Woman! I'm glad that you're back "in cuff" and confidently walking once again. Hopefully, those "wasps" will never return.

  2. This reminds me of the parable that it isn't the mountain ahead that wears you; it is the grain of sand in the shoe. At the time of the attack of the "wasps," I'm sure this felt like more than a grain of sand!

    I'm so glad the rash has healed that you are back on your feet. Science has done amazing things, but the body is sensitive. Take care of yourself. I hope this doesn't happen to you again. God bless.

  3. This new technology is amazing and how good the wasps have not recurred and you can use this new device again.

  4. This is a very interesting device. I knew you use it, but not really how it works. Sorry about that painful rash, why does it happen? From it rubbing against the skin?

  5. I'm sorry to hear that you've been dealing with some setbacks, but glad you are 'getting your stride' back! Pun intended :)
    That's a great picture of you and your son, by the way!

  6. He is definitely your son. You look so much alike.
    What an amazing invention but sorry it has some "bugs". Hope you figure out just the right amount of time you can wear it. Isn't science wonderful?

  7. It. never end, does it. Fix nothing and something new pops up. Makes you remember that the body is incredible and human efforts to repair it are clumsy at best. Read Atul Gwande's new book, Being Mortal. ' eye opening.

  8. wow, i had no idea you had this, thanks for showing it and explaining it. just another miracle electronic glad the wasp are gone, hope they stay gone...

  9. This was most inspirational! I came via Sally's blog, btw.

  10. Technology is so amazing. I'm glad you healed enough to begin again with it.
    Thanks for the detailed information. What a wonderful device to give you more mobility.
    Really nice photo of you and your son.
    No more wasps...praying.

  11. How wonderful that technology is helping you to step out with confidence. Amazing! And I'm sure this post will help others. Good thing to know about building up a tolerance for the device. Have very blessed weekend!

  12. This is really a wonderful report. Thanks.

  13. It's too bad about the electronic wasps, but I am glad that you now have adjusted the gadget.

  14. An extraordinary gadget and obviously well worth persevering with. I've never seen anything like it.
    Blessings from Dalamory