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Have remote, will travel

Innovative leg therapy helps Crosby
teenager ditch leg brace
Kelsey Dahl has a much better gait with the help from Medcenter One's ActiveArm ActiveLeg program
Thanks to therapists such as Jackie Mrachek, right, and the Active Leg program at Sanford Health, Kelsey Busch has a much better gait.
Like most teens, Kelsey Busch, 18, is comfortable with a remote in her hand. She plays Mario Cart with her Wii remote. She texts friends with her cell phone. She flips through channels with her TV remote. And she’s training herself to walk with help from her ActiveLeg remote.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at nine months, Kelsey has lived daily with the challenges presented by undeveloped muscles on her right side, compromising her eye muscles, arm and leg. Now, however, her once prominent limp is steadily diminishing. Like a new age bionic woman with remote in hand, Kelsey has begun to train her lower right leg to function with greater ease and comfort.

“We started traveling from Crosby where we live to Bismarck at least once a week in March,” said Kelsey’s mom, Jessica Busch. “Sanford Health doctors and therapists have worked with Kelsey to see if the ActiveLeg is a good fit for her.”

Until very recently, Kelsey needed a cumbersome brace that locked her right leg in place on account of a cerebral palsy-induced condition called foot drop that makes foot and ankle muscles weak. When Dr. Kevin Murphy, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist at Sanford Health, determined Kelsey was a good candidate for a Bioness L300 ActiveLeg trial, physical therapists Crystal Zander and Jackie Mrachek implemented a care plan that tested Kelsey and conditioned her leg.

Mrachek said the device needs to be programmed with specifications that address Kelsey’s particular strength and ankle position. “The ActiveLeg is providing impulses that the brain would usually supply,” she said.

Like other high-tech devices Kelsey uses, the ActiveLeg has parts that employ wireless communication to talk to each other. Kelsey places a small, light-weight leg cuff just below the knee that contains electrodes designed to place pulsing stimulation where her leg needs it. A gait sensor attaches to her shoe and communicates whether her heel is on the ground or in the air. The electrical impulses fire automatically to help lift the foot.

Kelsey is in control of the amount of stimulation her leg gets. If she feels her gait isn’t as natural or effortless as she’d like, or if she’s just becoming tired, her hand-held remote can adjust the level of stimulation and can also turn the unit on and off.

“She sometimes has fatigue in muscles because she’s using ones her body didn’t know she had,” Mrachek said. “Because her skin needs to adjust to the electrodes, she also needs to follow a protocol of wear time.”

  Dr. Kevin Murphy
Dr. Kevin Murphy


Kelsey, who likes to walk her dogs, Rosie and Adie, or jump on the trampoline with her sister Laurel, said “I walk much better. I feel more confident with it on, too. When I’m resting I can either take it off to let my leg breathe or I can switch it to training mode so it fires while I’m sitting and watching a movie or reading or something.”

Noting the high level of sophistication in the ActiveLeg, Mrachek considers the challenge to adapting to it through Kelsey’s eyes. “You know,” she said, “this is their generation. They live this. They get it; it’s their world.”

Then, without the remotest of worries, Kelsey confirms, “I barely notice it anymore.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Health ActiveArm ActiveLeg program or call 701.323.6097.

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