WSVN -- A car accident changed Keith Fern's life in an instant.
Keith Fern: "I was coming back from playing golf with friends on a drizzly, rainy afternoon. We had a rollover. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital, not moving any of my limbs."
He had a spinal cord injury, and doctors would give him devastating news.
Keith Fern: "The first doctor said I would never walk again."
But the 42-year-old refused to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Keith Fern: "I said, I'm gonna give myself a year to see if I make progress to get out of here. I'm not gonna go down without a fight. For me, I wanted to stand. I wanted to walk."
Thanks to his will to walk and intensive physical therapy, Keith was finally able to stand and take a few steps.
Keith Fern: "It was robotic, and it was just two steps at a time. I didn't have a normal pattern, so it was very tedious."
He would often trip or lose his balance and suffered from drop foot, where the message from the brain to lift your foot doesn't make it all the way to the foot.
Keith Fern: "When you have a spinal injury, your signals are crossed. I had to think about how to lift my right leg."
That's when his physical therapist told him about a new device called the Bioness, designed to help him walk better and safer.
Laura Mohammed, Physical Therapist at HealthSouth Sunrise Rehab Hospital: "The Bioness helps with a more normal walking pattern. Because a lot of times, when you can't lift your toe up, the person will do something different to compensate, so this keeps a normal lift so they can walk smoothly."
The device, which fits just below the knee, senses when the user tries to move the leg.
Laura Mohammed: "It sends an electrical current into the muscles to help the muscle turn on. And it also helps the muscle re-educate and get stronger, so eventually, the muscle may be able to lift up on its own."
It's helping Keith progress in his physical therapy.
Laura Mohammed: "He's able to go up and down stairs safely with it on. On the ramp, he can walk with a normal pattern now."
And even though he uses the help of a walker, he's making great strides.
Keith Fern: "It's 20 times better, because I am able to walk without stopping. It just makes walking a lot more relaxing, so it's not as tiring. It's a lot less thinking."
Keith is still hoping for the day when he can walk again on his own.
Richard Lemus: "The Bioness is being used in stroke patients and even patients with MS. Some insurance companies will pay for it."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
HealthSouth Sunrise Rehabilitation Hospital
4399 Nob Hill Rd.
Sunrise, Florida 33351