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Newly Renovated Rehab Unit Helps Children Walk with "ZeroG" Technology

Author: Elizabeth Simpson Earley
Published Date: Monday, October 28, 2019

A smile slowly spread across the face of 5-year-old Lucas Guinn as he felt a harness gently lift him aloft to walk across the room.

Another kid might not have thought anything about it, but Lucas suffered a stroke in September and has been using a wheelchair to get around ever since.

He’s a patient in the newly renovated inpatient pediatric rehabilitation unit at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk – the only one of its kind in Virginia. The $3.7 million renovation includes a state-of-the-art therapy gym with “ZeroG” technology, a robotic body-weight support device that glides across an overhead track the length of a therapy gym ceiling.

The system, which is operated electronically by a physical therapist, allows patients to practice walking, going up stairs, and going from sitting to standing, without fear of falling. The system can be adjusted to allow gradually more weight to be borne by the patients as they regain strength.

There’s even a way to simulate going off balance a little in order to exercise patients’ ability to catch themselves in a fall.

The renovation was unveiled October 17 during a grand opening attended by hospital officials and some special visitors. The unit has a U.S. Navy Blue Angels theme, with plane formations on the walls and nurses’ stations that look like aircraft hangars, along with “runway” hallways with markers to motivate patients to walk and wheel themselves greater distances.

U.S. Navy Air Station Oceana aviators attended the ceremony to help celebrate the grand opening, and Lt. Cmdr. Matt Suyderhoud, a former Blue Angel, even demonstrated how the ZeroG works.

The inpatient rehabilitation unit treats more than 100 patients a year who come from across the commonwealth and neighboring states, and stay an average of three to four weeks. The renovated space has eight private rooms with patient lifts that are attached to the ceiling and move along a track to the bathroom, for the safety of patients and staff. Patients began using the rooms in late August, but the therapy gym was only recently completed.

Dr. Rianna Leazer, a pediatric hospitalist and medical director of the rehab unit, said the theme will help inspire patients who often spend weeks, or even months, working to regain strength and mobility after injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and spinal injuries, along with chronic conditions like cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

A suite of rooms simulates a home-like setting where patients can learn how to do daily activities like eating, cooking, laundry, and dressing. One of the bathrooms looks like one you’d find in a regular house instead of a hospital so patients can prepare to transition home. Take a tour here.

The therapy gym has devices and features to help children regain strength in a colorful, inspiring setting.

For Lucas, ZeroG was a chance to walk without a therapist standing at his side holding him up. See ZeroG technology here.

“Try to stand up really straight … and keep going,” said Michael Graham, a CHKD physical therapist on the unit. “How does that feel?”

Lucas smiled broadly, and said, “Good!”

Lucas is from McGaheysville, Va., and was with his family on vacation Nags Head, N.C., in September when he complained about having a headache. Then, the right side of his face began drooping, and he started limping.

His parents, Jon and Haley Guinn, called an ambulance, and he was taken to a health clinic, then transferred to CHKD, where he was diagnosed with a stroke.

He’s been at the rehab unit since, regaining his ability to talk and walk.

“Did you like that?” Graham asked Lucas after the session with ZeroG.

“Um-hmm.”

“Was it scary?”

“No!” said Lucas, ready for another go at it.

The ZeroG is just one new feature of the new unit. The unit also has a Bioness Integrated Therapy System, which is a touchscreen-based platform with programs to challenge and assess a patient's physical, visual, auditory, and cognitive abilities.

“We’re trying to harness advanced technology to really help our patients reach their best functional outcomes,” said Dr. Charles Dillard, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor who is the medical director of CHKD’s traumatic brain injury program.


See ZeroG Technology in Action



Take a Virtual Tour of Our Newly Renovated Rehab Unit

About Elizabeth Simpson Earley

Elizabeth Simpson Earley works in the marketing and public relations department at CHKD. She handles calls from the media, and helps to promote CHKD and children’s health. A former health reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, Elizabeth has two grown daughters who were treated at CHKD on a regular basis.

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