Online search for Lokomat brings Montana resident to Chattanooga

April 18, 2017

Twenty-two-year-old Mandy Mackenzie sat on a balcony railing and lost her balance, falling backward and dropping 16 feet to the pavement below.

The impact burst-fractured her C5 vertebrae – causing a spinal cord injury that generally limits any future arm or leg function.

Mandy, who hails from Billings, Montana, spent two weeks in ICU following surgery to fuse her C4-C6 vertebrae. She then spent three months in Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado for physical rehabilitation. At that point, she needed 24-hour assistance and sometimes felt depressed about her inability to walk. Gradually, however, she realized that she still had a lot to live for. And to do that, she knew she needed to regain her independence.

Over the course of nearly three years, Mandy went to rehabilitation facilities in Omaha, Houston, Detroit, and New York, gaining independence with her daily living activities and improving her strength, stamina, and physical and emotional endurance. She understood the generally-accepted prognosis: if patients with spinal cord injuries don’t walk within six months, it’s unlikely to ever happen. However, Mandy took her first unassisted steps 18 months after her injury, surprising and unpredictable progress that only spurred her on.

But Mandy really wanted to pursue more specialized treatment, especially with the Lokomat, the world’s leading robotic medical device that attaches to a patient’s legs. It helps patients improve their gait patterns while walking on a treadmill, especially severely impaired patients. Mandy had only been able to use the Lokomat once during previous rehab therapy regimens, and she felt that this special equipment would now provide the intense workouts that would propel her to the next stage of her recovery. So she began to search online for other rehabilitation facilities that offered the Lokomat. As it turned out, the LokoMat is one of the special pieces of equipment featured on Siskin Hospital’s website, and a direct call to the hospital’s Outpatient Services gave her the information she was looking for.

“I double checked the availability of the LokoMat and other specialty equipment,” says Mandy. “And when I asked if I would be able to use the LokoMat at least four times per they told me they could probably do that!”

That was everything Mandy needed to know to pack her bag and head to Chattanooga. She wasn’t disappointed in her choice.

“In just three weeks, Mandy’s endurance improved dramatically,” says Kathleen Landelius, PT, a physical therapist in Siskin Hospital’s Center for NeuroRecovery. “At first, she was exhausted after three hours’ work, but now she stays the entire day with five to six hours of exercise and activity.”

Regular sessions on the Lokomat also yielded results. In less than a month, Landelius says, Mandy is walking on the machine with more of her own weight and less support from the exoskeleton. Currently, Mandy spends her weekday mornings in the Center for NeuroRecovery. After lunch, she heads over to Siskin’s Health & Fitness Center to work with another therapist in the NeuroWellness Program.

Mandy initially planned for a four-month stay, but now that she’s here, she is looking to enroll in UTC’s prepharmacy program, and continue her rehabilitation in both Siskin Hospital’s Center for NeuroRecovery and NeuroWellness Program.

“The therapists at Siskin Hospital are great,” says Mandy. “They’re kind, helpful, and knowledgeable. I made the right decision to come here.”

“Stories like Mandy’s inspire us to remember that recovery takes place for years after an injury like hers,” says Landelius. “It’s also important to remember that recovery involves the person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, and rehab must always try to address a combination of those aspects in order to be successful.”

Find out more about the Lokomat and other special technology at Siskin Hospital.