▎WuXi AppTec Content Team Editor
▲Mackenzie Maher (Image source: GyroStim official website)
The girl in the photo is Mackenzie Maher, a fit, smiling girl. Is it impossible to associate her with the term “cerebral palsy” based on this photo alone?
It’s all thanks to her father, Kevin Maher, who loves his daughter.
To treat his daughter, Kevin drew on his 20+ years of experience with robotic systems to develop a targeted therapy device to help improve McKenzie’s vestibular function. Mike Kenzie has grown into the healthy form he is today thanks to his father’s inventions and other treatments.
Step back in time to 1997, let’s take a look at how this father tailor-made this treatment device for his daughter, and how it later received FDA breakthrough medical treatment Approval of the device.
This year, the Mahers welcomed the birth of their beloved daughter, MacKenzie. At the time, McKenzie was three months premature and was diagnosed with severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. If this congenital disability is not properly treated, it will seriously affect McKenzie’s life in the future. The Machs did not want their daughter to live with this disability for the rest of their lives.
▲MacKenzie (3 years old) (picture from GyroStim official website)
When it comes to cerebral palsy, many people’s first impression is mental retardation. In fact, cerebral palsy is a disorder that primarily affects movement, posture, and balance in children. Fortunately, the sensorimotor system can be repaired. Just as the newly grown bone after a fracture is denser and stronger than it was before the injury, the sensorimotor system can also be exercised and strengthened by stimulating sensory structures throughout the body.
Doctors told the Machs that McKenzie had very poor balance and that adding vestibular-stimulating exercises to her treatment plan might help her more. So under the doctor’s suggestion, the Mach couple started the most primitive vestibular stimulation training for McKenzie – put McKenzie on an office chair and rotate for stimulation. In addition to being time-consuming and labor-intensive, this mode can only provide stimuli in one direction of horizontal rotation, and it is impossible to roll or flip back and forth. After several weeks of “swivel chair” therapy, the Machs gave up.
“There must be a better treatment for my daughter.” Father Kevin made up his mind.
Go ahead and use child car seats, wood, and a variety of other hardware to create a spinner in his garage that offers even more excitement chair. Little did he know at the time, he had just invented a safe, controllable and efficient vestibular stimulation device that would help countless patients with balance problems in the future besides McKenzie.
Combined with a routine physical therapy and cognitive home therapy program, little MacKenzie started using the rotating device within a few weeks. The therapeutic effect far exceeded expectations. Not only did she make huge improvements in balance, but she also saw dramatic improvements in gross and fine motor skills, trunk control, and even mood and language.
It is clear that McKenzie’s stimulation of the vestibule through the device triggers a series of additional benefits. By the time McKenzie was 6 years old, she looked like any other healthy little girl.
▲Mackenzie (6 years old) (picture from GyroStim official website)
Given the unprecedented success of this stimulation device with McKenzie, Kevin has continued to improve and perfect it. In 2007, Kelvin single-handedly built the first automated rotating device, the GyroStim.
The device’s miraculous healing effects on McKenzie also caught the attention of his therapists and doctors. After gaining their professional recognition, Kevin decided to start a company to commercialize the device to help more patients who also have balance disorders.
In the end, the device became what we see today.
▲GyroStim usage scene (picture from GyroStim official website)
GyroStim is a computer-controlled automated multi-axis swivel chair that stimulates the sensorimotor system by moving the patient in the air through pre-programmed movements. These movements can simultaneously stimulate multiple sensory structures throughout the body, including eyes, ears, skin, joints, etc., gradually enhancing and improving the patient’s ability to perceive, process, and respond to the world around them. The device is also able to meet individual patient needs through precise control and data algorithms, while protecting the patient from excessive stimulation.
In fact, GyroStim can now be used in far more scenarios than Kevin envisioned when it was developed. Not just for vestibular stimulation therapy for children with cerebral palsy, this device can also provide treatment for patients with balance disturbances due to injury, illness, aging and other related conditions – from young children to the elderly, from severe brain injury of patients to world-class mobilization.
McKenzie was the first GyroStim beneficiary, and she was fully motor and intellectually disabled after treatment. Currently, she has a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Denver and is preparing to pursue a doctorate in applied developmental sciences. On weekdays, she also likes to participate in various extreme sports, such as skydiving, diving, rock climbing, full of energy and vitality.
▲Mackenzie’s graduation photo (picture from GyroStim’s official website)
There are countless other cases that have benefited from GyroStim: It helped top Canadian ice hockey player Sidney Crosby from potentially ending his career recovering from a career concussion; it helped an average high school student relearn to walk and even run after suffering a life-threatening traumatic brain injury; it helped top football running back Christian Jackson McCarver McCaffrey) fine-tuned his sensorimotor system to be one step ahead of his opponents; it has also helped countless people overcome balance problems and improve their quality of life.
It is worth mentioning that the most potential application scenario of GyroStim is to improve falls in the elderly. Data show that in 2018, more than 36 million falls in older adults were reported across the United States, and the annual medical expenditures associated with falls in older adults exceeded $50 billion. In addition, falls are the leading cause of injury and death from injury among older adults. GyroStim can reduce the incidence of falls in the elderly by improving balance, thereby saving a huge amount of related medical expenses.
On April 27, 2022, Kevin and his company had big news – GyroStim was approved by the FDA as the first treatment for balance disorders equipment, and obtained the breakthrough medical device designation, becoming the 46th medical device in FDA history to be designated as a breakthrough medical device and approved for marketing.
Today, GyroStim is used by health clinics, athletic training centers, research laboratories, and universities in 9 countries around the world, including the United States.
“When I pieced together that swivel chair for Mackenzie, I never imagined it would evolve into a breakthrough technology that could help so many people around the world.” Kevin said with a smile in the interview.
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