Kootenai Health Rehabilitation Services receives new FES bike from generous community members
By Stacie Jones
Alan Wilson rides a bike two times a week. Like many of us who exercise, he does it in part to improve his cardiovascular health. But Alan, who is a quadriplegic, is also motivated by something else.
“Riding the bike helps me build strength in my legs and prevent muscle atrophy, so that if I do get some returned use of my legs, I’ll have something to work with,” he said.
The Coeur d’Alene man suffered a spinal cord injury after a fall during a recreational pickleball game in December 2014. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. As part of his rehabilitation, Alan and his wife, Janette, have traveled to Spokane at least twice a week for more than a year for therapy on a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycle. The cycling system allows patients to exercise the muscles of paralyzed limbs in order to build muscle strength and improve fitness.
A facility in Spokane had been Alan’s closest option for therapy on the specialized bike. But now, since Kootenai Health Foundation purchased an FES cycle for rehabilitation services at Kootenai Health, Alan will be able to do his cycling sessions much closer to home.
“It’s a huge time-saver,” Alan said. “Now that we don’t have to kill an entire afternoon driving to Spokane and back, I’ll be able to use the bike even more.”
The FES cycling system uses electrical stimulation to create movement of the legs or arms in order to pedal the bike. Electrodes, which are placed on the patient’s muscles with a type of sticky pad, send electrical currents to the nerves, causing the muscles to contract. The benefits of FES cycling are numerous—from aerobic conditioning to increased circulation, spasticity management and muscle flexibility.
The bike is available to all Kootenai patients who may benefit from FES therapy, including people with incomplete or complete spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke or multiple sclerosis. A $10,000 donation from Hecla Mining, where Alan worked for 30 years before retiring in 2013, helped fund the $30,000 piece of equipment. Hecla employees also kicked in an additional $8,000. Steve Peteroni, Alan’s former supervisor at Hecla, spearheaded the fundraising effort within Hecla and in the broader Coeur d’Alene community, helping to raise more than $26,000 in about seven weeks.
“Alan is my friend…I wanted to do everything I could do to help him,” he said. “Hecla’s primary goal in this effort was to help Alan, but we also saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community by providing a type of therapy that was otherwise unavailable locally.”
Contributors to the purchase included the Coeur d’Alene Elks Foundation; the Coeur d’Alene Section of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the Wallace Gyro Lead Creek Derby; the Wallace Rotary Club; and numerous community donors. Many of the Wilsons’ family and friends also contributed to the fund.
“We were really impressed and deeply touched by the number of people—near and far—who generously stepped up to help fund this bike,” Alan said. “It’s very humbling,” Janette added. “We are so grateful.”
The Wilsons, who approached Kootenai last year about the possibility of the facility acquiring an FES bike, emphasized that the new equipment is not just for Alan, but for the entire community.
“This was something that we really needed in the area,” Janette said. “It was great to be able to partner with Kootenai Health in order to get something the whole community could use.”
Sue Donaghue, Director of Rehabilitation Services, said the bike is a welcome addition to Kootenai
Health’s available treatment interventions.
“The FES bike is an additional resource for our highly skilled physical and occupational therapists, and it will help ensure that we keep current with evidence-based approaches to rehabilitation,” she said.