Avera Medical Minute: Helping Patients Rehab From Debilitating Injuries

Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 10:29 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - At 43 years old, Nick Kiesow is not your typical stroke patient. But the location where his stroke took place, was even less typical.

“The stroke occurs in your spinal cord 1% of the time, compared to all strokes that occur in your body. But the recovery rate, you know, runs between 40 and 42%. So being in my early forties, it seems like that is in my benefit to get back to full 100% recovery. So that’s really what we’re hanging our hat on,” said Kiesow.

Nick’s stroke happened on October 15, 2022. Every day since he’s been working with his team of therapists at Avera Inpatient Rehab, slowly relearning the functions his stroke stole from him.

“He was really motivated and ready to go and he went through things very fast. We really strengthened him with his core-seeded balance. We started there, which then progressed to getting him down in the pools for some more balance work, functional transfers, and some leg strengthening and we were starting to notice some return. So the exoskeleton helps, I think, in a great way,” said Becca Thorson, an Avera Physical Therapist.

Because of that return and having no physical trauma to his legs, Nick was a good candidate for the Ekso Bionics Exoskeleton.

It’s a gait assistance device that doesn’t walk for patients but allows them to rehab their muscles in a safer environment.

“It provides immediate feedback for like just walking in general and the really difficult part is thinking about every integral part of taking a step, having it told to you and then having to you think every step of that process and then get instant feedback that you’re standing on your own, you’re not standing on your own. So there’s a lot that goes into taking a step that you don’t even realize,” said Kiesow.

“We were controlling every single step when we first started with him. And then, as you can see today, we progressed to just initiating that first step for safety, just to make sure we have our control set. And then he can initiate the steps after that,” said Thorson.

“Every time we’ve used it, my numbers have gone down. As far as how much the machine is actually contributing to my steps. So it’s been really positive to see that that improved,” said Kiesow.

“Seeing patients like Nick start to meet their goals, starting to realize, okay, like some of this may be attainable, having them realize their potential and being able to do it day after day. That’s really why most of us got into this profession,” said Thorson

“And I mean, even just standing up again is a really good feeling and then being able to walk and go down the hall. Yes, it takes me a really long time to get down the hall, but it feels really good once you’re at the end of it. It’s an incredible workout. It’s exhausting, but it’s it it’s exhausting in the best way possible. It just feels so good. Once you’re done.”

“The Exoskeleton kind of jumpstarts us and it gave us another tool in our toolbox and it was just another thing. Like, yes, like why would we not use this? It’s only going to help people in their quality of life,” said Thorson.

The Exoskeleton is currently being used for a variety of rehab therapies at Avera McKennan’s inpatient rehab unit.

It was recently approved for use as an outpatient therapy as well and it’s the only device of its kind in our region.

For more information on physical therapy and rehab options just go to www.Avera.org/MedicalMinute.