"Miracle in a Box" Helps Paraplegics Walk

A new device is changing the lives of thousands of Americans who have lost the ability to walk.

The WalkAide is about the size of an iPod and uses technology similar to what makes a Wii videogame work. It sends electrical impulses to the nerves and muscles of the lower leg, enabling its user to pick up hir or her foot. The WalkAide can restore mobility for people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injuries, according to "Early Show" correspondent Dr. Debbye Turner Bell.

She said Wednesday the WalkAide costs about $5,000 for people who pay out-of-pocket. But, Bell says, this year, Medicare has started covering the cost for people with spinal cord injuryies and some private insurance is also covering the device on a case-by-case basis.

Tina Mann, who was told she would never walk again after a snowboarding accident at age 16, is walking -- with a WalkAide.

Mann's injury to her spinal cord paralyzed her from the waist down, and even with extensive therapy, she could never walk without assistance.

She told Bell, "I still couldn't pick my foot up, no matter what I tried."

However, with the WalkAide, the Orlando, Fla. woman is now able to walk whenever she wants. She told Bell she takes a walk sometimes just because she can.

However, walking wasn't enough for Mann. She wanted to face her fear of getting on a snowboard again -- and she did -- with the WalkAide lending a hand.

"This is my miracle in a box," Mann said. "This gave me my life. And I'm just excited to see how far I can truly go. ...My possibilities are truly endless."

Mann told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith her life has changed dramatically since she started using the Walkaide.

"It gave me back all of my muscle strength. This is now me walking," she said. "I don't have to rely on metal, on plastic, on joints, on anything to help me. My muscles are doing the work."

Mann has taken part in a rock-climbing competition, and regularly does strength training.

How did her family react to her being on a snowboard again?

"They were very apprehensive," she told Smith. "They had watched the last eight years, they watched me struggle to get back. And they couldn't understand why I wanted to risk this, but I needed it. I needed to get back on a board to go forward."
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