Robotic therapy helps keep dad’s dream of walking his daughters down the aisle alive

The father of four, paralyzed after a serious accident, now dreams of taking his daughters down the hall after receiving innovative robotic therapy.

Luke Louden suffered multiple serious leg injuries, as well as a broken neck and back, in August 2020, and for more than two years, the milkman had to contemplate the end of his life as he knew it.

The 32-year-old from Whauphill in Dumfries and Galloway said he “knew instantly” that he was paralyzed after the accident, adding: “The doctors didn’t say there was a chance of walking, but they said there was a possibility.

But that poor luck is now starting to come true after she became the first patient to receive a new type of therapy at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Cord Injury Unit in Glasgow.

“I started feeling the benefits pretty quickly and now I have less pain, less spasms, sleep better and lose weight. It’s been huge for my mental health as well.

His wife Anna and their children Anna (eight), Chloe (six), Mary (four) and Isaac (three) were the ones who inspired and supported him during his recovery.

Physiotherapist patient

Physiotherapist Claire Lincoln with Luke Louden on the ZeroG Gait and Balance System (Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit/PA)

“They kept me going, especially my wife,” Mr. Louden said. “I don’t know how I would have managed without him. I’ve had some really dark times, but now I can look forward with real hope.

“The dream would obviously be to have my girls walk down the aisle, so for Anna and all my kids, I’ll keep trying, keep trying.

“I mean, look at what this system has done for me so far – you never know what further developments are ahead.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was tough and the future was daunting, but the team here has been amazing and I know they have my back.”

Mr Louden said that before starting his therapy on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s ZeroG Gait and Balance System, which he says is the first of its kind in Scotland, “it has taken a lot of effort and hasn’t seen any returns and I can do it”. I feel hopeless”.

“It was really hard in the beginning and I didn’t really know what to do. I was really fit and active, so it was hard to lose use of my legs.”

In September last year, he started using the robotic apparatus that supports him during therapy and helps him walk automatically in sync with his movements and prevents falls.

“It changed my life and how I felt,” said Mr Louden. “I was able to walk 20 meters without stopping on the railing, even though I could hardly move. My record in the ZeroG system is 57 meters.

Physiotherapist patient

The ZeroG Gait and Balance System is a robotic apparatus in which a patient is supported during therapy (Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit/PA)

“I would love to keep improving, but to be honest, if I couldn’t achieve more, I would be happy the way I am. It’s great to be able to stand up, albeit framed.

“If you had asked me six weeks ago if I could do this, I would have said don’t be a fool. But now I can stand by my children.”

Claire Lincoln, senior research physical therapist at the hospital, said that patients using the machine can do much more without getting too tired.

“The system also allows us to be more creative in the activities we undertake, which allows the patient to see additional benefits while getting more pleasure and satisfaction,” he said.

“We’re still learning about the full potential of the system, but because of the support and added safety it provides to patients, it allows us to try treatments sooner than would be possible.”

Spinal cord injury consultant Dr. Mariel Purcell said that since she started her career 30 years ago, more patients now have the potential to get back on their feet.

“Maybe we’d see a lot of young men who had been in a car accident or industrial accident, but advances in safety — seat belt wearing and health and safety laws — have made a real difference,” he said.

“We’re now seeing damage that isn’t so bad, and we’re seeing older patients with lower-velocity injuries.

“This gives us a real chance to help these patients and the ZeroG system will be instrumental in this study.”

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