Spinal Cord Injury Patient Makes Strides with Ekso Eksoskeleton
A carefree day in August 2013 at Bethany Beach, Delaware, with his wife and three children changed Mike Jocsak’s life forever. Riding a boogie board, he caught a wave seconds too late and landed face down in the sand. A family friend who was vacationing with the Jocsaks spotted Mike floating face down in the water, and he raced out to rescue him.
Still conscious, Mike was aware of what was happening, but unable to move any part of his body below his shoulders. Mike was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury. He spent two weeks in an acute-care hospital, followed by two months of inpatient rehabilitation, gradually regaining some movement in his hands and starting to walk with assistance.
Upon discharge to his home in Fleetwood, Mike and his wife, Pam, chose Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network’s outpatient Neurorehabilitation program for the next stage of his recovery process. Mike comes to Good Shepherd three times a week for physical, occupational and hand therapy, including an hour a week using the Ekso exsoskeleton, a robotic device that helps people with paralysis and other neurological disorders to stand up and walk.
Mike is using the Ekso GT, an updated model that Good Shepherd received in December 2013. This version offers several mechanical and software advances that allow the patient to shift weight more efficiently and make turns more easily.
“Using the Ekso provides structure for me and has reinforced the memory of walking. I do believe it has played a significant role in my being able to walk using a walker with minimal assistance,” says Mike.
He has also regained significant mobility in his hands, fingers and left arm and remains hopeful for continued improvement so he can return to his job as an operations manager and engineer for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. An avid mountain bike rider, skier and golfer before his accident, Mike looks forward to one day to be able to resume his outdoor activities.
“My accident placed a significant amount of stress on my family. But I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from my family , coworkers, as well as friends, former classmates and even some teachers,” says Mike. “They have helped me maintain a positive attitude. I am really thankful to be alive.”
“I try to focus on my progress each day and not think about the past or worry about the distant future,” he says. “I focus on what I can do each day to get better.”
He credits Good Shepherd for also playing an important role in his recovery process. “You need qualified professionals and the right facilities and equipment,” he says. “All of the people I work with at Good Shepherd have an extremely positive attitude. They enjoy their work and encourage me to believe in myself.”