Letter: Standing and Walking Again

Letter: Standing and Walking Again

To the Editor

To the Editor:

I am writing you to tell you about a neurological physical therapy center located in Vienna that is doing amazing things to help many disabled residents of Fairfax County. The center is called Advanced Physical Therapy (APT) -- aptrehab.com -- and its owner and therapist is Dr. Valerie Gibson. Dr. Gibson’s center is unique as it specializes in the treatment of neurological diseases and injuries. At APT, leading edge rehabilitation technology is combined with expert hands-on therapy which helps to maximize function and increase independence in patients with spinal cord injuries, like me, and patients who have had a stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, brain injuries, and other neurological illnesses and conditions. Dr. Gibson is using new and emerging technologies which are transforming the field of neurorehabilitation. APT is the only clinic in Northern Virginia that has the most advanced technologies to assist patients in their physical recovery. The staff at APT has received advanced training by experts in the field and have earned all necessary certifications to use these remarkable devices to enhance their patient’s potential to overcome the challenges created by their impairments.

In 1977, at the age of 17, I myself suffered a severe and life-threatening spinal cord injury diving into a swimming pool and was paralyzed from the neck down. With expert medical attention and months of excruciating pain and hard work, I recovered some of my movement. While I was able to recover most of the normal function in my hands and arms, my legs, however, would never again function normally. I was able to walk again, albeit in a different manner than most people. I was determined not to let my accident define me. I graduated from college and went to work. I spent over 20 years in mortgage finance and information technology industry.

Although after my accident I was able to walk with a modified gate for many years, in 2008, my physical condition started to slowly worsen and I was forced to start using a cane and then eventually a walker. After years of research and medical consultations, I was diagnosed with a "tethered " spinal cord. As a result of my original injury, my spinal cord had become attached to my spine, causing my physical deterioration and continuous, unbearable pain.

In May 2012, I had surgery at NIH to detach my spinal cord from my spine. The surgery left me a quadriplegic for the second time in my life and I now spend 100 percent of my waking hours in a wheelchair. Over the past three years, with the help of Dr. Gibson, I have worked hard to try and regain the mobility in my arms and legs. My plan is to continue to stay physically prepared for any new procedures or one day, even a "cure".

APT has recently acquired a life-changing, remarkable product called the Ekso Robotic Exoskeleton (http://www.eksobionics.com/ekso). This is a bionic suit (yes, like the 6 Million Dollar Man) allows someone like me to be able to stand and walk again. This device enabled me to not only stand up but also to walk again for the first time in over 3 years. The Ekso Robotic Exoskeleton helps not only people with spinal cord injuries but also survivors of strokes and other forms of lower extremity weakness to walk again.

I am so very passionate about neurorehabilitation, not only for me but for the many people that these new technologies like the Ekso Robotic Exoskeleton, that I thought you may be interested in doing a story about Dr. Gibson and Advanced Physical Therapy and what she is doing to really change people’s lives.

Paul Brown