|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!