State News

North Carolina woman walks after suffering aneurysm

Posted 12:01 a.m. Monday

— Taking one step forward is enough to make Renee Lindley cry tears of joy.

The 53-year-old Alamance native has spent the last 15 months relearning how to use the left side of her body after a hemorrhagic stroke on the right side of her brain. Though she's regained the use of her arm and hand, she suffers from drop foot, a condition where paralysis causes the foot to hang down so the patient can't lift it to walk.

That's where Steve Grove and WalkAide come in.

"My primary care physician sent me to a place called Hanger Orthotics, and I went to see (Steve) to get a new brace, . and then he mentioned, 'We have designed a device that helps people like you with drop foot,'" Lindley said.

WalkAide looks like a blood pressure cuff, but instead of wrapping around Lindley's arm it wraps around her leg just below the knee and sends electrical signals to her foot to make it lift. With the turn of a knob and a little beep each morning, she can walk without the use of her cane or walker — at least for a few steps.

"It's a lot of work learning to walk again, so I get tired," she said.

Once the strength in her left leg comes back, she'll be able to walk without a walker or cane full-time, and she's doing everything in her power to make that happen.

"It's wild. It's really wild. It's a miracle if you ask me," she said. "Eventually it will become so easy that I won't need anything. I will walk just like you walk, but that's going to take time, and we don't know how much time because every individual is different, but I'm pretty strong and I'm not going to stop. I'm using it every minute of every day except when I go to bed at night."

Lindley is in the midst of a three-week trial that began Tuesday. If she wants to keep the WalkAide, she'll have to come up with roughly $3,000 towards the $6,000 price tag, and she's counting on the generosity of friends, family and fundraising to give her that chance.

Only 20 percent of patients suffering Lindley's type of aneurysm survive. Had she not been in Winchester Medical Center in Virginia looking into the headaches and numbness she'd been experiencing for a number of weeks when it happened, she wouldn't be here today.

With a renewed vigor for life, she's taken up gardening, rekindled her old passion for acting by joining a theater company for disabled actors in Greensboro, and relieves stress with adult coloring books.

The front patio of her apartment, which her landlord expanded free of charge so she could maneuver her wheelchair in and out after she first moved in, is covered with bright plants, flowers and wind chimes.

She sold that wheelchair recently, determined never to use it again, and says the first thing she plans to do once she's gained enough strength in her leg is walk barefoot on the beach.

"I'm not taking one second for granted, not at all. I'm out here doing everything I can to feel good, to have a full life, and I'm not stopping," she said.

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