July 22, 2003
by Dawn Mercer
WIS News 10
With the push of a button something amazing happens: Les Kirk stands up. Thanks to functional electrical stimulation Kirk is beating the odds and a spinal cord injury, "Before I even talked to the doctors, I couldn't move my legs."
He may not be riding motorcross anymore, but walking a flight of stairs is a different type of excitement for Les and for Doctor Randal Betz, "It makes all the years of research work and all the dollars that the Shriners so generously put forth really worth it."
Les has an implanted receiver with an external antenna. Wires connect the electrodes located on his muscles. When activated, Dr. Betz says electrical stimulation forces Les' muscles to contract or relax in a specific pattern, "Just as you and I would do except, that instead of us doing it by our brain, it's being done by a computer."
Unlike an able-bodied person, Les' muscles stay stimulated until the device is deactivated, limiting how far he can go, "What stops them from going 200 feet or 500 feet is they're exhausted. It's like you or I running a 100-yard dash."
Les had to work hard to strengthen his muscles, so he can do more, but he's mastered the technology enough to do daily activities as well as some activities he thought he'd be forced to give up, "I ride my four wheeler standing up and stuff. That's pretty neat."
For the functional electrical stimulation to work a person has to have
spasticity in the muscles and living nerves. Doctor Betz says it can help
people with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
As with all Shriners Hospitals, the treatment is completely free to patients.
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