On a recent weekday, the physical therapy clinic was working with UDairy Creamery and setting up the GoBabyGo Café in the front lobby of the building. Inside the pop-up ice cream stand was a harness system, designed by Steven Cope of Newark’s Accudyne Systems Inc.
The goals are for the patient to move freely without a constant concern of falling and for researchers to observe, study and monitor the movement of the patient. The café helps patients to transition back into the real world, with real interaction.
Volunteer Anne Dunlap sat in her scooter as a crowd began to gather. This was the first day the café was to be tested.
DT: Can you share a little background about your injury?
I was a seat belted, front seat passenger in an autobus collision in August 1998, weeks before I was to leave for my first year at Virginia Tech. I sustained a very severe traumatic brain injury. One of the [injury’s] many effects is that, after years of physical therapy, I still struggle with walking and balance. Doctors tell me that injuries deep within my brain make movements slow and prevent me from sensing and reacting to catch myself. After many dangerous falls, I’ve accepted that it’s best to be safe and to have physical supports such as a scooter and a walker.
DT: Was that the first time you were in a harness apparatus like the one I saw you in last week?
Being in this UD PT harness was the first time in more than 15 years that I’ve had the freedom to securely move in any direction without holding on to something.
DT: Did you find it comfortable? Liberating? Or was it more challenging and exhausting?
I would have to say all of the above. I felt comfortable and liberated because I was so secure and protected I didn’t have to worry about falling. It was challenging because, although it is very safe, I still had to stay in control of my movements and be aware of my surroundings. Those who know me, though, can attest that I’m always up for a challenge.
DT: Because of the nature of the learning environment that is the STAR campus, there was a captive audience as you got into the harness. Did it bother you to have so many people observing? Is it distracting?
Not at all. This is not the first time I’ve worked with the UD [physical therapy] students and department. I not only benefit by using this myself, but I’m also helping others learn.
DT: Will you be returning to work at the Creamery at STAR?
Yes. Because of this great experience, I intend on staying and working with the café. I want this to open up new doors for me in the future. This harness allows many possibilities for me.
DT: Do you have any ice cream flavor recommendations?
One of my favorites is the “All Nighter.” It’s coffee ice cream with cookie crumbles mixed in. Coffee is one of my all-time beloved goodies, and so there is no surprise that I would love it in ice cream form!