Over the last 5 years my walking has slowly become worse. The day after my car accident I felt a heaviness in my right leg. I needed just a little more effort to use it, and it tired quickly. This weight has grown since then, and it now feels like I am dragging a teenage child who has decided it would be fun to grab my ankle. This has made walking difficult, and despite trying IV steroid infusions and IV Immunoglobulin infusions (this was a nightmare treatment over five days, the pain it caused was unreal) nothing improved my walking.
At my next appoint with my neurologist he suggested I try Functional Electrical Stimulation at the MS society office in Galway. That day I phoned them and made an appointment to try this device. Within a few days I visited the MS Chartered Physiotherapist, and he assessed me and then strapped this device below my right knee and around my thigh. The sensation when it stimulated the muscle was like a gentle electric shock, a tingle, and it made the muscle at the back of my thigh contract, and it lifted my foot.
It made my leg work.
I then did 8 weeks of twice weekly one-hour sessions. During this period my walking improved, and most importantly, my leg strength increased. It also improved my walking speed unaided by the device. Then over the Christmas period I stopped the treatment for a few weeks and my leg strength reduced and walking slowed.
This system worked for me, and so I resolved to find some way of getting it permanently. I tried the HSE (Health Service Executive) for funding, and they did not have sufficient money in their physiotherapy budget to pay the €10,000 for the apparatus. As an aside, the IV Immunoglobulin treatment cost in excess of €10,000 and it didn’t work, but it it a hospital budget, and there is no link between the two of them. I found a way to pay for it, and I ordered it in July.
On August 16 my device arrived and on the 19th I attended the physiotherapist in the MS Office to get the FES device fitted. This took one and a half hours, and I have not looked back since.
Climbing stairs, walking around the grocery shop, or even being able to walk hand in hand with my partner is possible again. It has liberated me from this recalcitrant child clinging to my leg. It is so hard to describe how I feel now that I have back something which I thought I had lost forever. I shared a quick video on Facebook and Twitter one day when I walked on the beach. They have shared this many times, and the number of views is now in the thousands.
It seems many people with MS are not aware of FES, and how it works, and so I am writing this post, and recording another video, to explain what happens.
I must make everyone aware I am not a medical professional, and I cannot give advice. This post is my experience, and as MS is different for everyone, the results I have will not happen for everyone. If you are interested in this speak with your neurologist and physiotherapist, and they will steer you in the right direction.
The following video explains more about the device and how it works.