Ray Sullentrup is 40 years old, has two kids (a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter) and loves to stay active by playing basketball, bike riding and running. These days, however, Ray has been forced to set aside the activities he enjoys so much due to an unfortunate development. A few years ago, he began to experience some very unusual things on the left side of his body.
“Out of nowhere, the coordination and strength on my left side began deteriorating,” said Ray. “We’d be out at birthday parties and friends would ask what was wrong. [I got] into my primary care, told them the symptoms and they immediately got me in for an MRI.”His doctor found out that Ray had developed a cavernoma, which is a deformed blood vessel that had been slowly expanding over time and putting pressure on the part of the brain that controlled the left side of his body. Surgery was required in order for the cavernoma to be removed, as well as a lengthy and challenging course of physical therapy at the Sutter Rehabilitation Institute at Sutter Roseville Medical Center to help Ray get back to moving the way he used to.
Part of Ray’s rehabilitation included the use of the EKSO GT Robotic Exoskeleton, a robotic therapeutic walking device that helps survivors of stroke, spinal cord injury and other forms of lower extremity weakness to walk during therapy. The EKSO GT was made possible thanks to the generosity of donors in the Roseville community, and Ray was among the first patients to utilize its futuristic and technologically-advanced features to drastically improve his recovery of walking.
Rehab centers at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Sutter Roseville Medical Center also have the exoskeleton therapy device. And recently, the community came together at the Castro Valley Fall Festival to support Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, raising more than $10,000 –which will be matched by an additional $10,000 from the Rotary Club of Castro Valley — toward the purchase of an Ekso GT Robotics Exoskeleton therapy device.
“The EKSO GT is a clinical tool that can be used to address various goals for walking as well as increase patient participation in standing,” said Dana Ittner, Therapy Services Manager at the Rehabilitation Institute. “It can be used to retrain walking by helping someone initiate and complete a step providing assistance where needed. But it can also provide resistance to stepping to increase strength. The goal of therapy with the EKSO GT is to increase how much each person can do from simple weight shifting to using their available muscle strength to achieve an ideal walking pattern in and out of the robotic walking device.”
Prior to the purchase of the EKSO GT, therapists had to physically produce the walking movements for patients, with many sessions requiring the exhaustive labor of two therapists at a time.
“Previously, we were limited by the fatigue of our therapists as well as our patients. Now we don’t have to worry about that as much,” said Dana. “Patients get a lot more repetition of steps in the same amount of time than they were able to before. We are finding that they are tolerating being in an upright position on their feet for longer, building endurance and promoting recovery.”
Suzanne Zolfo, Director of Philanthropy at Sutter Roseville Medical Center Foundation, is always seeking the places where patient needs intersect with donors’ interests. So it was important to her to see the first trials of the EKSO GT at the Rehab Center to report back to the Foundation Board of Trustees the impact funding this equipment would have on patients at the Rehab Center.
was exhilarating for me to watch patients stand up and walk in the EKSO. Many of the
patients who could benefit from this equipment haven’t been able to walk or
do anything without a lot of support,” said Suzanne. “Being able to stand
is the first step to getting their freedom back — this is the kind of impact
that compels donors to give.”
When asked what he’d most like to be able to do again, Ray immediately thought about his kids.
“My son just turned six and my daughter just turned three. Being able to kick a soccer ball, play catch, and ride bikes with them — I guess that’s what I’m looking forward to getting back to doing the most,” he said.