Julia Rodes and her TEK RMD
Within the complex rehab technology industry, standing can be accomplished via standing frames and standing wheelchairs (power or manual). Each, of course, has its limitations. Standing frames require their users to stay in place while standing. Standing wheelchairs are mobile, but — as fully functional wheelchairs — can be large and cumbersome in tight spaces.
Standing in a Smaller Footprint
The Matia Robotics TEK RMD — distributed in the United States by Numotion — functions somewhere in between the standing frame and standing wheelchair, but has capabilities all its own.
“The TEK RMD has all the benefits of standing in general,” said John Pryles, Numotion’s senior VP of sales. “There’s spasticity management, bone density [improvement], circulation benefits. We know that standing is beneficial. It accomplishes so much more than tilt and recline, or just tilt because of what it allows your bladder to do, because of its ability to help with tone and spasticity, bone density, circulation and respiration.
“But the thing that’s unique about the TEK RMD is it’s a much more functional application of standing targeted at a group that was somewhat overlooked.”
That group, Pryles suggests, includes the active wheelchair user with, for instance, a lower-level spinal cord injury. That client might be completely convinced of the benefits of standing, but might still have difficulty fitting static standing into his or her day.
“You have to take time out of your day, stop what you’re doing, get over to the standing frame, go up in the standing frame, and then you’re captive,” Pryles said. “You’re there and you’re standing. It’s not functional.”
In comparison, the TEK is allowing people to access standing, and then opening up a whole world of functionality where they’re able to stand and now they’re able to do things. People who are able to do something functional are going to do it a lot more often. Because they do it more often, they’re going to reap the benefits much more.”
A Medical School Trial
The TEK RMD is being put to the test by Julia Rodes, 28, a student at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). In 2011, Rodes sustained an L2 incomplete spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident. Since her husband is an Army officer, “My entire life as a paraplegic has been within the Army family,” Rodes said. “When you have that much care and love, you can still do everything you wanted to do.” Within days of being discharged from the hospital, she was back at college.
Coincidentally, her primary physician at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where Rodes did her rehab, was a wheelchair user and the only student with paraplegia to complete the program at MUSC up to that time.
“I was unsure if I could go back to college,” Rodes admitted. “There’s a lot that was really intimidating, but the biggest part was the actual physical maneuvers that you do as a physician. I loved surgery; I still do, and I wasn’t sure if that was going to be an option. And [her physician] said, “Don’t be an idiot. Of course you can. Twenty years ago, maybe not. But we’ve got the technology now. Don’t be an idiot.’
“So I wasn’t an idiot,” Rodes laughed, “and I finished my degree.”
As she spoke with Mobility Management, Rodes was celebrating the end of her first year in medical school, capped off by anatomy “practical” exams in the cadaver lab.
“You have 30 tables lined up and 30 students, and you go from table to table,” Rodes said. “You have 10 seconds to identify whatever part of the body they’re pointing out. You’re moving with your classmates in a line through the tables.”
Using the TEK RMD, Rodes was able to work in the cadaver lab and eventually take her practicals. “The accommodations they’ve had to make are minimal because [the TEK] has such a small footprint and it’s so mobile and stable.”
Rodes typically spends four hours at a time in the TEK, several times a week — a vigorous schedule she had to work up to. She enters and exits the TEK without assistance and in just a few minutes. And she hopes to eventually go back to work in the government medical system.
“Once you’ve had that experience as a patient, you know what it’s like to have your entire life changed,” Rodes said. “I think I can bring that back to the military community, especially soldiers who fight and have injuries from that.”