Susie was unable to move anything from the waist-down at the time of injury (a car crash). After 2-3 months, she noticed a small degree of volitional movement in her left leg. Her therapist and doctor were convinced that the leg movement was the result of tricky body mechanics and gravity-assistance. Susie was discouraged by this, but said “Early on, though, I had this really strong mindset, I had a one-track mind that: I’m going to do this, I’m going to walk out of this hospital. And, as everyone looked at me like I was crazy, I knew that I would do that. And I did.” She quickly followed, “Not pretty! But I did.”

Susie was unhappy with the therapy she was receiving in the early months. Eventually she found a physical therapist who had exactly the passion and “outside-the-box thinking” that she was looking for. At that point she started making real progress. Currently, five years after injury, Susie is still making progress. “They give you an expiration date for this injury. ‘First three months, first six months, first year, whatever you get is what you get.’ It is so, so far from the truth. I’m like five years out, and I’m still getting stronger, still getting recovery.”

Susie began training with the Spartan in mid-2018. At the time, she was walking with the help of two canes, but wanted to further refine her gait. “The Spartan was really interesting,” Susie said. “ I thought it was a great tool to practice walking without anything, where your therapist is in control of the movement. The thing I like most about it was...in the swing phase, it really helped me to work on those stabilization muscles.”

She continued to say the Spartan allows for “more natural walking over ground, versus trying it on a treadmill...with everything hooked up to you (bodyweight harness). Another reason was the swing phase issue. We really wanted to target those [stabilization muscles] in a safe manner.”

Normally, Susie has to hike her hip when walking with canes in order to clear her swinging foot. With the Spartan, she doesn’t. “The apparatus that goes on your foot is holding the toe up. If you don’t have that ability to dorsiflex your foot, it’s already putting your foot in a dorsiflexed position. So when they are pulling your foot through, you don’t have to worry about clearing the foot. You don’t have the restriction of an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic), and you are using muscles you normally wouldn’t with an AFO,” Susie said.

Asked if the Spartan helped her functionally, Susie replied: “Absolutely. There’s a combination of things you’re doing in therapy, of course. But I think incorporating that definitely helped with my speed and my gait. Also when I’m doing other activities, like single-leg stance, I could connect more with those stabilizing muscles.”


Spinal cord injury (L1, incomplete), 2014

Marilyn was totally paralyzed from the chest-down. After years of aggressive activity-based therapy, she now walks with two canes. “Although I am limited,” she said, “I can only go about two-hundred feet before I am spent...my legs start feeling like they weigh a hundred pounds.” She is not done recovering. Marilyn said “My short-term, which would be like a year out, would be to get down to one cane. And then, of course, the ultimate goal would be to walk without canes.”

She incorporated Spartan-Assisted Gait Training into her therapy regimen first in late-2017, and then after relocating to a new clinic, again in 2019. Marilyn said, “The biggest problem I have is my left leg is weaker than my right. And when I do step, it whips out. As hard as I try to pull it through straight, it turns to the side. And the Spartan just does an awesome job of keeping the form that you should (have), so I’m not using muscles I shouldn’t be using, to pull my leg forward.”

After using the Spartan for several months, Marilyn noticed that her left leg does not externally rotate as much as it used to. “We’ve definitely seen improvement with the Spartan,” she said, “and I think the more you use it, the more it corrects the form for walking, and is working on the correct muscles to build up the strength so that it doesn’t do ‘the whip’ anymore.”

Marilyn has persisted with physical therapy continually since 2011, at several clinics and at home, having no plans to stop anytime soon. With an in-tact sense of humor, she finished by saying the Spartan is “the perfect device for my little whip-leg here.”


Transverse Myelitis (localized between T4-T10), 2011

TryAbility is a neuro-recovery activity-based therapy clinic, recently opened in the Chicagoland area. “Our speciality is neuro-recovery,” Traci said, “for people with neurological deficits. We’re focusing on a population that has spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, people with inflammatory neuropathies. We see a variety of different folks that have issues that have caused paralysis or some sort of movement disorder.”

Activity-based therapy clinics like TryAbility are a growing phenomenon. Entering the arena of the neuro-recovery centers is no easy task, as the startup costs can quickly escalate when purchasing therapy equipment. Traci said “We’re very careful with our expenditures. We have brought in a lot of state-of-the-art equipment, from different types of electrical stimulation bikes to robotic walkers. We want the ability to ensure that once we’re done with some of these more state-of-the-art types of equipment, we can enable our patients to continue that through over-ground walking. And what that looks like in a clinic, often becomes very labor intensive, with our physical therapists. It creates a burden on them” Traci went on to say “From not just a clinician’s perspective, but also from a financial perspective, I need to balance those things. I don’t want them to get burnt-out as they go through their daily activities with our patients. So the Spartan enables us to allow our patients to have that over-ground walking, and...my clinicians to not put as much strain on their bodies on a regular basis.”

Traci’s final thoughts on balancing her clinic: “Above and beyond the burnout that I might get from my physical therapists, from a dollars perspective, I am able to balance my expenditures. Because instead of perhaps have three clinicians working with one patient, to ensure they are doing the right gait (form), I can bring it down often to just one clinician, still providing that same optimum level of care, but in a much more cost-effective manner.”

The world needs more activity-based therapy clinics, Traci said. One of the largest barriers for people who want to open one up is the prohibitive cost of the equipment. “We have some state-of-the-art equipment here that we have been fortunate enough to bring in, but those do come with tremendous price tags. So, it’s a constant battle, and we constantly need more things like the Spartan in this space, so we can help more people.”


Co-owner of TryAbility Rehab in Downer’s Grove, IL. Her clinic was one of the first few early adopters of the Spartan.