Paralysis clearly means learning to give up many of the activities to which you are accustomed to doing. In many cases, that can mean not being able to go places that aren't wheelchair accessible or even standing to get something off a shelf. Now, new research in Philadelphia brings paralyzed people a little closer to a normal life.
With the push of a button, something amazing happens to Les Kirk.
Instead of us doing it by our brain, it's being done by a computer.Kirk has an implanted receiver with an external antenna. Wires connect the electrodes located on his muscles. When activated, electrical stimulation forces his muscles to contract or relax in a specific pattern and unlike a typical person, Kirk's muscles stay stimulated until the device is deactivated, limiting how far he can go. What stops Kirk's muscles from going 200 feet or 500 feet is that they're exhausted.
He may not be riding motor cross anymore, but walking a set of stairs is a different type of excitement -- for Kirk.
Kirk had to work hard to strengthen his muscles so he can do more, but it's safe to say he's mastered the technology enough to do daily activities, as well as some activities he thought he'd be forced to give up. "I ride my four wheeler standing up and stuff. That's pretty neat."
For the functional electrical stimulation to work, a person has to have spasticity in the muscles and living nerves. Doctors say it can help people with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.