Health & Medicine

New Cardinal Hill machine provides robotic help with walking

Physical therapist Leann Kerr, left, joked with Mason Cunningham, 3, after he worked on a new robotic system for patients of Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital who need to learn to walk or improve their capabilities. Terry Cunningham, right, said the G-EO machine had helped his grandson physically and "with paying attention."
Physical therapist Leann Kerr, left, joked with Mason Cunningham, 3, after he worked on a new robotic system for patients of Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital who need to learn to walk or improve their capabilities. Terry Cunningham, right, said the G-EO machine had helped his grandson physically and "with paying attention." Herald-Leader

Mason Cunningham, 3, of Lawrenceburg was having the time of his life thwacking nearby objects with a green fly swatter while a robotic device helped his legs get used to walking.

Mason has cerebral palsy and had substantial trouble with motor skills before now.

After a six-month trial, Lexington's Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital became the second rehab center in America to buy the $287,000 G-EO machine. The robotic walker training system helps child and adult patients with a range of physical disabilities and injuries regain strength and movement to improve walking.

The other rehab center that has it is MossRehab in Philadelphia.

G-EO is made by Switzerland-based Reha Technology.

Patients using the machine are suspended from a harness while a robotic system below puts their legs through the motions of walking. The machine may be adjusted to support more or less body weight, depending on how much support each patient needs.

The G-EO can be operated by just one therapist, unlike other systems that require two to three therapists. It can be adapted to health conditions including cerebral palsy, developmental delays, neurological disorders, stroke and spinal cord injury.

Mason's grandfather Terry Cunningham said the machine "has not only helped him walking. It's helped him mentally, too, with paying attention."

He is proud of Mason's progress on the machine: In one session, Cunningham said, Mason was on the machine for an hour and took 3,750 assisted steps. The goal is for him to be able to walk on his own or with some assistance.

Now, according to Cardinal Hill, Mason is sitting independently and bearing weight on his legs, has increased head control and is showing the first signs of becoming a walker.

Braiden Adkins' parents, Leslie and Matt Adkins, were so impressed with the G-EO machine that they raised $5,000 toward its purchase. Matt Adkins, a new Lexington firefighter, was touched that his firefighter class donated $200.

Braiden, 5, has schizencephaly, which causes developmental delays in speech and language skills, and difficulty with movement.

The G-EO has helped him develop a better walking pattern, according to material provided by Cardinal Hill. Braiden has increased his level of tolerance and endurance, and is initiating some steps with assistance.

The Adkins family moved from Pikeville to be closer to Cardinal Hill. Leslie Adkins said the G-EO took the place of activities that had required multiple employees for help.

"We definitely wanted him here for the opportunity to use it, just to see him more balanced, more comfortable with walking," Leslie Adkins said.

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