Featuring: Anita Kou, MD
After falling down a flight of stairs, classically trained ballet and tap dancer Mauricio Fernandez had a traumatic spine injury and temporary paralysis of his arms and legs. Physical therapists at Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital took a unique approach to his recovery plan by incorporating dance moves using the ZeroG® Gait and Balance System, a robotic body-weight support system on an overhead track that helped Mauricio practice dance moves without the risk of falling.
“When Mauricio came to Marianjoy, he had extreme weakness in his arms and legs. He couldn’t move his fingers and had little movement in his right ankle and foot,” says Anita Kou, MD, medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. “Mauricio was already motivated, and by including something he loves into his therapy, we’ve seen amazing progress and expect him to continue getting stronger over the next several months.”
The rapid up-and-down motion of tap dancing, which Mauricio started doing in a wheelchair, strengthened his leg and foot muscles. Once his balance improved, he moved to the parallel bars for ballet poses to strengthen his core and arms. When he was ready for more dynamic moves, the 50-foot track of the ZeroG gave him plenty of room for jumps and leaps.
“Dance is so familiar to Mauricio that tapping into that muscle memory really helped his recovery,” says Marianjoy Physical Therapist Julie Zell. “It made therapy fun.”
Mauricio was discharged from inpatient therapy in late November 2022 and will continue outpatient therapy to work on returning to full form.
Anita Kou, MD, physiatrist at Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital
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