It's been one year since Dana Reeve passed away. Dana and her husband, the late actor Christopher Reeve, became crusaders for spinal cord injury research after he became paralyzed.
NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh reported Wednesday that a promising treatment once used by Reeve is now available to people in Boston. It's offering new hope for patients who once may have felt hopeless.
Richard Maloney was paralyzed in a swimming accident 20 years ago. He walked with crutches for the first time Wednesday.
"All of sudden I was up, and I was doing it. It is really great. It's exciting," he said.
Bob Konieczko is hoping to walk on his own again, too.
"They told them in no uncertain terms that I would never walk again," patient Bob Konieczko said.
It's becoming possible for some spinal cord injury patients to walk again thanks to Locomotor Training Therapy, which is available at Boston Medical Center. It's partly funded by the Christopher Reeve Foundation. It is the same therapy Reeve was so excited about during his treatment and pushed to make it available to as many people as possible.
"Many of the patients who have been treated at the centers have gone on to become good walkers, some have actually gone on to walk without any assistance," Boston Medical Center's Dr. Steve Williams said.
Research shows that the intense therapy has profound benefits. Patients spend about an hour on the treadmill with the help of trainers. It's been proven to strengthen their muscles and to improve their health. The most unbelievable part of this therapy though is how it helps paralyzed people walk again.
"Walking is a stepping reflex that is controlled by the cord and that through facilitation and sensory input from standing and stepping that we are retraining the cord," Williams said.
Maloney's results came after one month of therapy.
"I just want to be able to stand on my own, too," he said. "Whatever else is a bonus."
Konieczko said that he is feeling stronger and getting back movement in his legs. He's determined to walk again.
"I intend to take it all the way through and to make this something that people can look at and say, 'By golly, if that fellow can do it, I can do it, too'" he said.