By Tonya West
For Hometown News
With the exception being those who are benefitting from its use, no one could be more excited about the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill than Carlton Shores Executive Director Joshua Wagoner.
From Merritt Island and possessing a love for "all things space," the treadmill with NASA patented technology has been a remarkable tool for patients at the health and rehabilitation facility in Daytona Beach.
Mr. Wagoner's passion for the long-term care business resembles his grandfather Robin Wagoner's dedication, the latter helping out with the Apollo Space Program and serving as president of the former Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
"It's really neat to me, coming from the area (it was designed in)," Mr. Wagoner said. "It makes me wonder what other things we could eventually do? You never know, but there's a company out there that has come up with something very unique, yet revolutionary that benefits many people."
While a few outpatient therapy clinics in Volusia County have the anti-gravity treadmill, Carlton Shores, a Greystone Healthcare facility and member of the Florida Health Care Association, is the only inpatient/outpatient post acute rehabilitation center in Volusia to have it. The company, Alter G, started in 2005 and in 2008 the treadmill was cleared by the FDA. In 2012, 1,000 facilities had the technology.
"Our patients love it," Mr. Wagoner said.
It works by creating a weightless environment and is especially helpful to those who are not able to put their full weight on their feet. It can support almost 80 percent of a person's body weight. Once standing on the treadmill, a sleeve is pulled up around the patient and a neoprene suit tightens around the legs, creating a vacuum. It puffs and lifts up the patient, making them feel like they're walking on air.
Patients have historically relied upon therapists to walk with them down the halls, following them with a wheelchair in case they need to sit quickly. With the anti-gravity treadmill, patients no longer possess the fear of falling.
Two cameras are placed on the side and to the back of the patient, so they can track their movements and make corrections as noted by the therapist.
"Our patients can take more steps, walk longer and faster," Mr. Wagoner said. "It's safe because you're not going to fall. The machine has you. It's completely controlled and contained, with the therapist there reviewing your movements. The fear factor is gone."
From a medical standpoint, Mr. Wagoner said limited pain is another benefit. The amount of stress patients put on their bodies is minimal because the treadmill lifts them up.
"No one wants to work when they're in pain. It can be a mental block," he said. "We do get patients who say they're in so much pain that they can't work today, that they can't do their therapy. This treadmill allows them to work and from the first time they're on it they realize the pain is limited."
With 99 beds, a number that will be increasing in 2014, Carlton Shores' patients are mainly short term, seeking post acute rehabilitation services for orthopedic issues, such as hip, knee and shoulder replacements. They have 35 residents who call Carlton Shores home and Mr. Wagoner sees the technology being able to help some of their long-term residents with limited walking ability.
The technology is also geared toward athletes, pediatrics and those in the military. "It's not just for us," Mr. Wagoner said, "but for us, it's great. We're dealing with the elderly. They are more frail, they have the tendency to have more pain, break more bones, have more injuries."
Patients also come to Carlton Shores for Medicaid's 60-day diversion program before being placed in a facility that requires less assisted living and they come for quick five-day stays for recovery from surgery.
For Dr. Regina Gargus, a pediatrician, who is at Carlton Shores recovering from surgery, the anti-gravity treadmill is helping her begin rehabilitation quicker. Not able to be immersed in a pool so soon after surgery, the treadmill fast tracks her so she can return to her own practice in Chattanooga, Tenn.
For a first hand look at the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill in action at Carlton Shores, visit their YouTube video at youtu.be/ZW4ofz5H9DM.