Parastep Use Experience and User Profile
I’ve been a Parastep user for the past eight years. I’ve walked with it long enough to make the system a part of my body and a part of my mind. Using functional electrical stimulation (FES) on limbs that otherwise would remain dormant has visibly pronounced results. My thighs, calves, and butt muscles appear similar in size to those of my able-bodied peers. While I don’t look like a body builder, given the upper body of a person who pushes a wheelchair all day, I feel like my physique has remained intact and proportional. This appeals to my vanity. However, Parastep’s "side-effects" change more than just the size and look of my legs. My bones fight off the natural tendency to become brittle from lack of weight-bearing, and my joints and tendons remain healthy from the regular push and pull of bent-knee walking. This appeals to my sense of wellness, and the desire to remain optimistic about the future.
One day, those with spinal cord injuries will no longer have to remain in wheelchairs, crutches, or orthodics. Modern science has brought us closer to the day when spinal tissue will be able to regrow, and those with injuries will be able to reclaim their past. This opportunity will become wasted without keeping muscles, bones, and soft-tissue as conditioned as possible, to the rigor that walking places on them. Parastep accomplishes this conditioning. It gives me piece of mind that I am doing everything possible to insure that one day I will walk again unaided by FES.
I use the system under a wide variety of conditions. So much so, that I cannot claim to one pattern as my own. I have pushed myself to walks of a mile or longer in one session. Sometimes, I simply walk across my apartment. I have months where I walk 6 days a week. Some months I hardly walk at all. I have accompanied family and friends around neighborhood streets. I have walked those streets alone. I have appealed to the sympathy of women to become my "spotter", even though my extensive training has allowed me to use the system independently for the past seven years. Even with Parastep, I remain shameless. I regret that the system is neither designed flawlessly, nor suited for use by everybody. Parastep is a tremendously challenging activity, and I often have neither the time, nor the will power to use the system as much as possible. In the past, I have often been too caught up in school or traveling overseas to make room for the Parastep.
Lately, I walk alone in the early morning, using the system not as exercise, but as meditation. I find that many of the issues a life on wheels brings with it, are momentarily solved when I am once again, albeit temporarily, a biped. I currently attend UCLA School of Law with plans to join the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office after I graduate. I do not have a lot of time to myself. Maximizing my personal time and space, is key. Parastep allows me to look people in the eyes again. It challenges me physically and allows for a mental release. It makes me feel strangely bionic and naturally human at the same time. After all, what could be more natural than standing on your own two feet?
By aiding me to manage the secondary effects of my spinal cord injury and allowing me to enjoy a fuller life outside of the paradigm of disability, I find that Parastep has changed my life in a manner that is impossible to reveal in words or pictures.