This Lokomat machine helped Michael Coss learn to walk after a traumatic brain injury. He, and a Surrey clinic, have partnered to raise money to bring the machine to the growing city.

COLUMN: Technology gives me hope my father will walk again

Lokomat taught Michael Coss to walk again after brain injury – and you could help bring it to Surrey

Amy Reid is a staff writer with the Now-Leader.

As Michael Coss described re-training himself how to eat, how to brush his teeth, and how to brush his hair after a traumatic brain injury, I had flashbacks.

Flashbacks to sitting bedside for weeks at Surrey Memorial Hospital just a few years ago, watching my father go through the exact same thing.

Lifting a spoon but not being able to put it in his mouth. Holding a stick of deodorant but being seemingly unable to recall what to do with it. Picking up a comb with his one working arm and struggling to lift it to his thick head of hair.

Like Michael, my father had a brain injury that left him partially paralyzed and cognitively damaged.

Another parallel is that the two men even lived in Langley group homes run by the same organization, CONNECT, which specializes in residential environments for people living with brain injuries.

Michael still resides there.

While the impacts of their injuries are shockingly similar and both were unarguably life-altering tragedies, the stories of how they arrived there are very different.

My father suffered several strokes. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since, and struggles with the mental impairments he received as well.

As for Michael, he now walks with a cane after seven years of being bound to a wheelchair, he now walks with a cane.

Not only does he walk, but he’s done a one-kilometre Terry Fox Run, the Vancouver Sun Run and even the Sheraton Climb the Wall event which involves climbing more than 700 stairs. He’s raised thousands for the Terry Fox and Rich Hansen foundations and even formed his own charity, the Michael Coss Brain Injury Foundation.

His incredible achievements led to him receiving a Courage to Come Back Award in 2012.

But it’s been a long road since the 2006 crash that altered his life forever.

His wife and twin six-month-old babies were in the car during the crash. While they came out alive and well, Michael wasn’t so lucky.

He spent six months in a coma, and it wasn’t clear whether he would ever wake up.

The family decided to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy and it worked. Michael woke up but was left with significant deficits. He was unable to stand, unable to walk, and required a power wheelchair with a head rest to hold his head upright.

Michael could not return to his job in sales with Molson’s. He was also an athlete before the crash, and grew up playing many sports, including baseball and hockey.

Now 49, Michael says he has no memory of the accident.

It happened when he lost control of his vehicle when travelling to Kelowna for a golf event.

“I remember the day before my injury but in terms of the actual accident I remember zero of what my family went through,” he said. “I know I only saw pictures of the vehicle after the accident and holy cow.”

Their car was mangled in the crash.

His first memories are of a group home he moved into, where he was forced to teach himself how to do basic things.

“Learning how to eat again and things like that, how to become independent again, how to comb my hair, brush my teeth, all the things that we take for granted. How to use a toilet, how to have a shower, dress myself. Simple things,” he recalled.

So how did Michael come so far? He credits a single machine – and an amazing physiotherapist. Called the “Lokomat,” the device is a treadmill with a harness system and robotic legs.

See also: Stricken by stroke, a Surrey teen ballerina is determined to dance again one day

Therapists put individuals into the harness who have paralysis or lower-extremity weakness and, using robotic legs, repeat the motion of walking over and over again.

“So someone who has had a stroke or has cerebral palsy or who has had a traumatic brain injury like Michael, it allows them to experience that in a much easier way than if it was a therapist trying to do it on the ground,” explained Michael’s therapist Pauline Martin.

Michael used the machine in Vancouver every week for two years and amazingly, is now able to walk again with a cane.

The Lokomat is a type of therapy that’s hard to come by.

His therapist, Martin, runs Neuromotion Physiotherapy + Rehabilitation clinics that have the only two Lokomat machines used outside of a research environment in the province, and after opening a clinic a year ago in Surrey, she wants to bring one to the growing city.

The existing ones, in Vancouver and Victoria, were donated by local families, and Martin decided to launch a fundraising campaign to hopefully have a third available in Surrey.

But it comes with a big price tag. Martin says the estimated costs for the basic Lokomat is US$300,000 but she hopes to raise US$450,000 for the model that can help children, as well as adults.

“There is an overwhelming need and demand, especially in the Fraser Valley,” Martin said of the technology.

The Lokomat can literally make the difference between someone remaining in a wheelchair for the rest of their life, or walking again, she added.

And while the machine may be credited with helping Michael learn to walk again, Martin says it’s also his drive.

His father, Bob, agreed.

Michael at the Surrey Neuromotion clinic, which has been open for just over a year.

“Michael is a true inspirational person. He inspires me everyday as a father. I go to the gym everyday, six days a week, and when I’m working out and I’ve done 10 laps and I’ve had enough I’ll say no. When I think of Michael, I’ll say I’ll do one more lap.”

But Michael says he’s not done yet, as his speech, balance and walking abilities continues to improve.

He has three goals this year.

First, to regain as much function and use of his left hand, which is not very mobile now.

“My second goal is to build my relationship with my children who were just six months old when I had my injury,” Michael said. “When I go to sleep at night, they give me hope, they give me drive, they give me purpose. That’s why I keep making process to this day.”

His third goal, he added, is “to give hope and inspiration to other people going through a similar situation.”

“My journey has been long,” he said. “It’s been step by step, and it’s been breath by breath as well. But I continue to make small progress to this day, even when I’m approaching 12 years post injury now.”

So on your worst day, take a page out of Michael’s book, who offers this advice: “Anything is possible when you believe, to never give up hope and to always have purpose and drive and focus.”

Michael has partnered with Neuromotion in its effort to find donors to fund a Surrey Lokomat.

I will be donating to this campaign to bring this life-changing piece of technology to Surrey. It – and Michael – give me hope that my father will one day walk again. For more details, visit projectlokomat.com.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Just Posted

‘A labour of love’: High school turns into ‘toy shop’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau

Fraser Heights Secondary has been making toys for the non-profit for more than a decade

Oppal says Surrey mayor wrong about policing transition timeline

Chairman of committee overseeing Surrey’s transition from RCMP to city police says work won’t be done by Dec. 11

White Rock waterfront strategy ‘pop-up’ session to be held tomorrow

Event to take place at museum from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Farnworth says Surrey RCMP boss’s statement on budget should be taken ‘seriously’

Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald warned Surrey’s budget will have “detrimental effect” on policing

LETTER: If recall mechanism existed, Surrey’s mayor would be gone in heartbeat

McCallum and cronies are out of control, won’t listen and are in dereliction of their duty

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Chilliwack mom gives back to neonatal unit with Christmas stocking drive

Ashley Durance is paying it forward to other families and their babies following daughter’s NICU stay

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

Most Read