The Magic of the Floating Frame

A dynamic Pacer Success Story

Amanda Blankley | March 2018

A teenage boy using a gray Rifton Pacer gait trainer to walk.Saad is a young man who just transitioned to our adult services from his school program in September 2017, and even though I try hard not to have favorites, Saad tests my resolve; he never fails to brighten my day.

When Saad first arrived, he only had the wheelchair he came in. We put him in an old-style Rifton XL Pacer. Saad has cerebral palsy, involving a complex history with both his knees requiring surgery. In the XL Pacer, he could move himself forward but his step-taking was rigid and slow-going. He would get stuck at a table or in corners and was unable to back himself up and would require help to continue ambulating. Nevertheless, he loved being upright.

After about a month into our program, Saad’s parents obtained a Rifton dynamic Pacer for him. You could see the change immediately the first time we put him in it. He went from walking pretty stiffly literally to running! When he would see staff members whom he is particularly fond of he would run toward them. Because of the way the dynamic frame essentially “floats” and allows for movement, Saad was able to build up so much speed that he couldn’t slow down quick enough, and often ended up ramming into them. But because Saad was so clearly exhilarated by the newfound mobility, nobody minded, everybody was laughing. To avoid any injuries we had to apply the drag function on the casters to slow him down.

Not only did this magical floating feature help Saad go from walking to running, it also gave him the ability to maneuver in tight spaces. Saad loves to come visit me in my office, but my office is recessed off the main hallway and there is a small entry area in front of my door. In the XL Pacer he would end up cornered there; he couldn’t turn or back out. But with the new design of the Pacer allowing freer movement of his legs Saad has far less trouble turning his Pacer around and maneuvering out of this tight spot.

A teenager using the Rifton Pacer gait trainer to walk in a classroom.

Best of all, this new freedom for Saad has allowed him far greater engagement with his peers and the staff at the day program. He loves baseball and he loves tennis and now he can get out watch and even join in. We have a huge ring toss that our clients take turns with, and Saad will go running over and take the ring and toss it and run and pick up it up again. And he’s got a thing going with one of our staff members where he’ll tap him on the shoulder and challenge him to a race, and off they both go across one of our large rooms. Saad gets to laughing so hard he can hardly catch his breath. It’s a joy to watch.

Now, when Saad arrives in the morning, he can hardly disguise his impatience to get out of his wheelchair into his Pacer. And then he spends most of the day upright and moving. At a recent parent meeting I expressed some concern over the amount that Saad was sweating as he expends his efforts, but his parents loved to see him burning off all that energy and told us to only help him out of his Pacer if he is showing signs of distress.

Even toileting has improved. Now Saad can walk himself to the restroom, transition from Pacer to a seated position on the toilet, and then get back into the Pacer.

His improvement in just these past five months has been so dramatic that we are even considering graduating him to our program for higher functioning adults. We believe that with the dynamic Pacer he may learn to participate in jobs and tasks that require walking.

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