Locomotor training puts Luke on his feet


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – As an expectant or new parent, this is something nothing can prepare you for. A birth injury or an illness soon after causes a spinal cord problem and can prevent a child from walking. Scientists at the University of Louisville have designed a machine and therapy that works with a child’s still-developing neurological system to help them regain movement. Ivanhoe has more.

Every step little Luke Madson takes is nothing short of a miracle. Born at just 33 weeks, Luke spent the first month of his life in the NICU. Shortly after returning home to live with mom, Sarah, dad, Tim and her big sister Ruthie, Sarah noticed something was wrong.

“As if he couldn’t hold his head up high. He wasn’t really moving his arms and legs much,” Sarah explained.

Doctors tested Luke and found he had a spinal cord injury which likely occurred in the womb or at birth.

“They told us he would be completely paralyzed and on a ventilator if it presented as an injury for us as an adult. But it was pretty miraculous that he was moving and breathing on his own,” Sarah continued.

Now just over two years old, doctors say Luke is making huge developmental strides. Experts attribute the improvement to intensive therapy known as locomotor training. Done on a machine designed for pediatric patients only.

Andrea L. Behrman, Ph.D., PT, a physical therapist at the University of Louisville, said, “We use a treadmill environment, a harness system to help lighten the child up a bit.”

Coaches surround Luke and guide his feet. They encourage Luke to play while walking, engaging his arms and hands.

“We’re trying to realign what typically happens in development with some type of therapy to activate his nervous system, starting with the spinal cord,” Behrman continued.

The researchers say locomotor training taps into the ability of the spinal cord to help Luke regain movement and control of his abdomen. Therapists say that after a year of therapy, Luke no longer collapses in a chair or walker.

“This locomotor training gave him the opportunity to move. And it’s as if it turned her on. It has changed all of our lives,” smiles Sarah.

Luke does musculoskeletal training on the pediatric treadmill for an hour a day, five days a week, followed by additional physical therapy. The Madson family moved from their hometown of Minneapolis to Louisville so that Luke could receive specialized treatment. Andrea Behrman says she can’t tell the Madsons what Luke’s specific prognosis will be, but she says he’s getting better and better.

Contributors to this report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer and Field Producer; Kirk Manson, videographer; and Roque Correa, editor.

Copyright 2022 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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