Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, uses the Lokomat machine at the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria. - Submitted photo

Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, uses the Lokomat machine at the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria. - Submitted photo

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell took her first extended steps in 27 years this week, using a special mechanical device.

Stilwell was involved in an accident at age 17 that left her a quadriplegic. Losing the ability to walk didn’t curtail her deep love of sports and she eventually went on to become one of Canada’s most-decorated Paralympic athletes, winning multiple gold medals for Canada in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing.

Stilwell visited the Neuromotion Physio clinic in Victoria for a session on a Lokomat—a device that provides highly repetitive and physiological gait training for patients with neurological issues.

The user is suspended in a harness over the treadmill, and the robotic frame is fitted to the client’s legs. The robotic frame then moves the client’s legs (with or without the client’s active participation) in a natural walking pattern.

Using the Lokomat, Stilwell was able to walk 800 metres (1,140 steps), more than she’s done in nearly three decades.

ALSO READ: Paralympic champion and Parksville MLA Michelle Stilwell retires from international competiton

“It’s a different perspective being that tall when you’re so used to sitting all the time,” Stilwell said. “It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me.”

ALSO READ: Stilwell to be inducted into Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame

Stilwell said she had tried a walking brace about 22 years ago but that, because of the state of technology back then, it was quite stiff and basically felt like a body cast.

“In my old brace I couldn’t flex my ankles, I couldn’t get that realistic gait pattern that you get from walking,” she said.

She said at first, using the Lokomat felt uncomfortable because her hips were tight, but after some adjustments to the machine she was able to loosen up and could take larger steps.

Stilwell said she was recommended the Lokomat by MLA for Surrey-Panorama, Stephanie Cadieux.

“I had a bone density test done almost two years ago and that’s something fairly common for somebody with a spinal cord injury, you kind of monitor things because when you’re not walking, your risk of osteoporosis increases,” Stilwell said. “About a year ago, I also got a standing frame for work so that I would do more weight bearing during the day to help decrease my risk of osteoporosis because my bone density test had shown I had jumped quite a bit. Then when Stephanie was telling me about [the Lokomat] I thought ‘that sounds fantastic.’”

Stilwell said the benefits of using the Lokomat for her are that it will help with flexibility and weight bearing, which could help decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

She said she hopes to continue using the device but will have to look into it further as sessions are fairly expensive at $175.

“Some health care benefits will cover it when you do it with a physiotherapist so I’m looking at whether that’s an option,” she said. “I certainly use my standing frame everyday that I can when I’m here in Victoria.”

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Crush Concierge co-owners Ashley Wells and Erika Greenland, pictured here following COVID-19 social distancing alongside their dogs Hank and Lady Bird, are up for two SBBC awards. (Photo courtesy of Erika Greenland)
Three Tofino companies up for Small Business BC Awards

Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister all received nomination honours.

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen has resigned his position and is heading south-Island. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns

Mayor Mayco Noel says he and his council “completely caught off guard”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March. 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino councillor candidates identify differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new municipal councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read