For 23 years I have been building LiftWalkers and other devices to teach the wheelchair bound how to walk. In all that time I have only seen former walkers learn how to walk. Again. Never have I seen anyone learn to walk who has never ever walked – those wheelchair bound since infancy or early childhood.
Then I heard about Tom.
Christmas Eve, 2011. Tom’s dad, John, gave me a call. He was looking to get a new lift walker. Tom had gotten my Original LiftWalker 7 plus years earlier while still in junior high school and worn it out. He used it to walk all around campus.
I said, “I’d love to build you a New Lift Walker. But he’s used one for almost eight years. He should be pretty strong by now. Maybe he’s ready for something else. How is his balance?” John said, “Balance? What balance?” I said, “Can you send me some pictures?” And I got an email picture set right away. One of them showed Tom playing guitar while perched on a stool. It looked like a backless stool too. I asked if the stool had a back and John said no. And I said, “Then he at least has balance from the butt up. We could possibly do something to move that balance ability down his body. Why don’t you make a video of him standing and let’s see how much balance he has.” He said, “He’s just going to fall over.” and I said, “Please stand close to him so he doesn’t get hurt. But let’s see where his balance is.” John gamely agreed and the rest is history. Tom stood for 22 seconds. I told John that I had been trying to put together a balance study. Something to figure out how to teach balance to those who didn’t learn to walk as children. I went on to say that while I wasn’t quite ready that perhaps this opportunity would be a good place to start. And we began to play with various tasks.
Here is Tom’s first big stand up. 22 amazing seconds.