Laura Cowen, a US Navy veteran and proud mom of two, describes her rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury, raising two children, and dealing with the quarantine blues.
COVID-19, commonly called the coronavirus, has affected people across the globe in both drastic and subtle ways. Laura Cowen is no exception. A United States Navy veteran living in upstate New York, Laura shares she was born in Pennsylvania but traveled with the military from Florida to California. In 2002, four years after joining the Navy, Laura was in a motorcycle accident that left her without the use of her legs. She began rehabilitation and admits she was willing to try anything that might help her walk again.
Laura went through rehabilitation at the VA for three months, stating “it was better because in civilian life, you only get one month.” Laura felt the extra time helped her to learn how to “live life independently” again. Throughout her rehab, Laura’s main goal was to walk again. She tried traditional therapy, an alternative medicine gym, acupuncture, horseback riding and eventually found herself in a study at UCLA that introduced her to advanced technology. She states this was exciting because it was backed by science, and “I got to stand on my own.”
Soon after, her life got busy and she took a break from intensive therapy. “We got married, moved, built a house, had kids, and my husband went to college all in 6 years.” She laughs, saying “being a mom was quite the adventure, everything from carrying until now.” When the children were little somebody asked her once how she picks them up. “I was like they [the children] figure it out. When they started to crawl, they would come up to my chair and I would pick them up. I would slide them up my leg.” Laura adapted to motherhood, using a body sling to carry her children while she pushed her chair around and swept the floors. Laura explains “things don’t get better or worse, they just get different. Everything has stages and phases.”
Eventually, Laura restarted therapy at VA Syracuse, where she tried walking in the ReWalk exoskeleton. She states “I just had a child and felt completely out of shape.” After being passed up for trialing the Ekso exoskeleton due to a skin issue, Laura got a call about two years ago from her physical therapist, who asked her to try the Indego exoskeleton. Her first impression was that the exoskeleton looked much better, and it didn’t look as heavy. She also liked that she could use a walker for support instead of forearm crutches. Laura explains getting up in the Indego for the first time “I said ‘wow this is cool, this is going to work!’”
The Indego made an impact on Laura. “I did the training with it and now I have it at home. Oh my gosh I love having it at home, if I didn’t have it I’d be so bored. I use it predominantly inside the home. We have hard winters here, so it gives me something to stay active.” For over two months, Laura has been stuck at home like millions of others around the world due to COVID-19. She states “as far as having the Indego, I think that occupies my time, as well as exercise. I put it on myself now and that’s awesome. I get in it in about 10 minutes. I usually walk 20-30 minute sessions for 500-600 steps. My husband helps me on his lunch breaks. It’s part of our routine.”
Prior to the pandemic, Laura had been participating in training for Indego’s Advanced Gait feature which allows users to achieve faster walking speeds. “I love it the way its fluid, I can go so much further. I miss it. I need it.” Laura states she will continue her Advanced Gait training once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Here at Indego, we are committed to providing the highest quality technology and excellent customer service to support our device users, rehabilitation teams, and those in pursuit of the highest level of function after injury. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions!
About the Author:
Dr. Michelle Martin, PT, DPT, is a Neuro-IFRAH certified physical therapist for the Janz Corporation, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. Michelle graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she continued her education to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Michelle has worked with patients with neurological, orthopedic, cardiopulmonary, and geriatric related impairments. She enjoys helping patients progress and find creative ways to overcome their barriers to mobility. Michelle hiked 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and cherishes her role as an Indego Instructor in-training where she is able to help individuals with mobility impairments enjoy the freedom of walking.