For people who can’t move their legs, the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bikes at Parkwood Hospital’s Fitness Centre are helping them keep their leg muscles fit and strong.
Therapeutic recreation specialist Mike Genereaux explains that wires from the bike attach to 12 electrodes - six on each leg: two on the quadriceps, two on the hamstrings, and two on the gluteals. The electrodes shock in sequence to feed electricity into the legs which makes them move.
“These bikes are a tremendous benefits to members,” says Fitness Instructor Kari Logie. “Keeping their legs moving helps with circulation to the lower extremities, muscle tone and strength, and even decreases spasticity and pain for some riders.”
Clocking up mile after mile on these bikes, the friendships that form among the riders is evident as they share their stories and experiences.
For Wes Vick riding the FES bike 10 miles, three times a week, keeps him in shape for the wheelchair marathons he competes in nationally and internationally.
Eight years ago Wes and his friends were enjoying a carefree afternoon of dirt biking on his friend’s farm in Huron County. Heading home, Wes veered off the path to take a shortcut through a bean field. When his bike hit a municipal drain hidden from sight by the knee-high beans, Wes was thrown off the bike and hit the drain head first. Air-lifted to London he spent three weeks in intensive care, then two months in the spinal cord rehabilitation program at Parkwood Hospital learning how to live life as a paraplegic.
And live life he does. Today 30 year-old Wes is a part-time student at Athabasca University studying math and statistics, is active in Toastmasters, plays sledge hockey and volunteers with the Canadian Paraplegic Association. He gets around in his modified pick-up truck which he learned to drive through the Driver Assessment and Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Hospital following his spinal cord injury.
The time riders spend on the bikes depends on their level of injury and ability. Resistance can be added for a more strenuous cardio workout.
Alex Hyndman lost the use of his legs in 2010. He was on his way to work near Ridgetown at 5:30 am when his car left the road and rolled. After his treatment in acute care and rehabilitation, Alex hasn’t let being a paraplegic slow him down. The 20 year-old Fanshawe student is studying in the fitness and health promotion program with a dream of one day either owning or managing a gym.
The Fitness Centre offers a range of adaptive fitness activities to people in the community with a disability. For members like Wes and Alex being fit is helping them achieve their goals and live their lives to the fullest.