"I worked, I had children. I had a completely normal life," says Denise, mother of two sons, recounting life before the routine surgery that changed everything. An error caused permanent damage to her sensory spinal nerves, completely paralysing her leg. She lost all feeling. She was still able to stand as well as swing her leg forwards from her hip. But she could no longer walk. From that moment onwards, Denise relied on a wheelchair. She had to completely change her life. Dealing with her divorce from her previous husband and looking after their two children added to the psychological stress of the situation and led to an existential crisis. "I was scared I would lose everything. I was scared that he would use it as an excuse to take my children away from me. He even said: 'You can't look after yourself.' And I spent a lot of time questioning whether I was actually capable," says Denise reflecting on the time after her operation.
The C-Brace is the world's first stance and swing phase control orthosis (SSCO): It controls both the swing and the stance phase during the gait cycle in real time and therefore gives Denise greater freedom of movement. The C-Brace has opened up a whole range of possibilities, making her daily life as a single mother infinitely easier. Initially, it was a question of whether she would meet the physical prerequisites. In principle, the innovative medical device is suitable for all neurological indications of the lower limbs; however, certain muscle functions and a certain level of trunk control are required. Denise was extremely relieved when the initial tests with a diagnostic trial orthosis confirmed that she could use the C-Brace as a therapeutic aid. The leg orthosis is controlled by a microprocessor and consists of thigh, lower leg and foot components, all of which were custom-made for Denise. The integrated sensor technology in the orthosis knee joint constantly measures knee flexion and angular acceleration of the knee. It detects which movement is being performed and how quickly – 100 times per second. This information is passed on to the microprocessor, which controls knee flexion and extension using hydraulics and regulates the required leg support in real time. The C-Brace can therefore support the entire gait cycle dynamically. A smooth gait also means that fewer compensating movements are needed, improving body posture and reducing physical strain. Subsequent damage caused by such compensating movements is therefore reduced or avoided altogether. The orthosis can easily be controlled using an app.
When Denise first started intensive training with her new leg orthosis with the help of her physiotherapist Mark, she never would have guessed that her life would completely change again – but this time for the better. To begin with, however, she suffered from muscle soreness as using the C-Brace reactivated muscles that she had been unable to use for a long time due to her incomplete paraplegia. Little by little, she regained her strength and was once again able to walk across uneven ground and slopes as well as go down stairs using both legs. She became more active again, climbing mountains and scaling the Eiffel Tower. She can now keep up with her sons – even cycling is possible again. Many people take being able to move like this for granted, but this had been an impossible task for Denise for a long time: "This leg orthosis has become like my glasses. I can't see without my glasses and I can't walk without my C-Brace." Someone who has been by her side throughout her journey is her physiotherapist Mark, who she married in July 2022. "What impresses me about Denise is her absolute determination to live the life she wants despite all restrictions," explains Mark, describing her progress. For Denise, the innovative leg orthosis was a major step towards independence and a way out of the crisis: "I've got my freedom back – I'm in charge. I can decide what I want to achieve. And I'm going to fulfil a lot of dreams."
REHACARE.com; Source: Ottobock