Mumbai: Tech-rehab helps teen find her feet again
Paralysed below her waist following a 15-foot fall, Saloni Merchant was administered four-staged neuro-rehabilitation that has helped her walk again
The girl who had fallen off a 15-feet-high wall. partially paralysing herself, is now able to walk independently. The 16-year-old had fallen from a community garden in her society, located on the first floor, leading to a spinal fracture. This led to paraplegia. Rigorous neuro-rehabilitation at Jupiter Hospital for over two months has helped her finally recover. Saloni Merchant was climbing up a grill in the garden on March 19, when it came out loose and she fell on her back with the grill. "Doctors told me that medical science wasn't so advanced to cure it and she would remain paralysed below her waist for life. Our world collapsed," said Merchant. A CT scan report also showed a small contusion in her head, and she was shifted to Jupiter Hospital under Dr Priyank Patel, a spine surgeon.
Diagnosis at the hospital revealed that she had developed a fracture in her thoracic spine running from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage. The neuro-circulation in the lower part of her body thus got affected. "It is like a building developing cracks. It needed immediate attention for recovery. Firstly, we needed to realign the spine and stabilise it with screws and a rod. Then we had to free the nerves that were compressed due to the impact of the fall," said Dr Patel. This helped regain the free flow of sensation. It is essential to operate on such patients within 24-48 hours of the accident without which the damage can be irreversible.
Technology to the rescue
When she underwent surgery, doctors noticed mild sensation in the limbs when they decided to put her on neuro-rehabilitation which happens in stages. In the first stage, doctors focused on her gait therapy which helps bring flexibility in locomotion. She was trained in LokoStation where patients with the help of robotic support, practice on a machine similar to a treadmill. She also used TYMO, a computerised balanced tray that helped bear weight in both lower limbs. When she showed signs of improvements, they went onto the third machine —anti-gravity treadmill which helped her walk with lesser body weight. Dr Amit Dhumale, director of Neuro-Rehabilitation at the hospital said, "In this treadmill, a person's body weight can be reduced by 20-80 per cent. The muscles thus start to work better. We then went to the fourth stage — virtual reality treadmill which has a screen in front of it with sensor grill. This gives a realistic experience while letting the patient control walking speed."
In the last part of the rehabilitation, she used dynamic stair trainer where she was trained to climb and alight stairs. "Now I know the feeling of walking on the moon where there is zero gravity," is Saloni's cheerful reaction to the entire process. She joined school last week relieving her parents. "We never thought she would recover but now when I see her walking and running, I can't believe it," said her father Suresh Merchant.
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