A father-of-four who was paralyzed after a serious accident now dreams of walking his daughters down the aisle after undergoing innovative robotic therapy.
Luke Louden suffered a broken neck and back as well as multiple serious leg injuries in August 2020 and for more than two years the milkman was forced to contemplate the end of his life as he knew it.
The 32-year-old, from Whauphill in Dumfries and Galloway, said he “knew immediately” after the accident that he was paralyzed, adding: “The doctors didn’t say there was no chance of walking, but they said there was a slim chance.”
But that slim chance has now begun to materialize after he became the first patient to receive a new type of treatment at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.
He said: “I started to feel the benefits pretty quickly and now there is less pain, fewer cramps, I sleep better and I have lost weight. It was also huge for my mental health. “
It was his wife Anna and his children Anna (8), Chloe (6), Mary (4) and Isaac (3) who inspired and supported him during his recovery.
“They kept me alive – especially my wife,” Louden said. “I don’t know how I would have coped without her. I’ve had some really dark moments, but now I can look to the future with real hope.
“Of course it would be a dream to walk my girls down the aisle so I’m going to keep going, keep trying for Anna and all my kids.
“I mean, look at what this system has done for me so far – you never know what further advancements are waiting around the corner.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough and the future is daunting, but the team here has been amazing and I know they’ve been supporting me.”
Before Mr Louden started treatment on the ZeroG gait and balance system, which NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde says is the first of its kind in Scotland, he said he had “put in so much work and not seen any return and I could feel my hope just ebbing away.”
He added: “It was really hard at first and I didn’t really know what to do. I was very athletic and active, so losing the use of my legs was difficult.”
In September last year, he started using a robotic device that supports him during therapy and automatically synchronizes with his movements, helping him walk and prevent falls.
“It changed my life and how I feel,” said Louden. “I went from having difficulty moving to being able to walk 20 meters non-stop on the bars. My record on the ZeroG system is 57 meters.
“I would like to keep improving, but honestly if I couldn’t achieve more, I’d be happy just the way I am. Just being able to stand, even with the frame, is amazing.
“If you had asked me six weeks ago if I could even achieve this, I would have said don’t be a fool. But now I can stand next to my children.”
Claire Lincoln, a senior research physiotherapist at the hospital, said patients using the device could do a lot more before they became too tired.
“The system also allows us to be more creative in the actions we take, which means that the patient gets more joy and satisfaction, while also seeing additional benefits,” she said.
“We are still learning the full potential of the system, but with the support and added safety it brings to patients, it is already allowing us to try out treatments earlier than would have been possible before.”
Dr. Mariel Purcell, a spinal injury consultant, said since he started his career 30 years ago, more patients now have the potential to get back on their feet.
“We used to see a lot of young men who may have been involved in a car accident or an industrial accident, but advances in safety – wearing seat belts and health and safety regulations – have made a real difference,” he said.
“Now we’re seeing damage that’s not as severe, and we’re seeing older patients who have suffered injuries at lower speeds.
“This gives us a real opportunity to help these patients, and the ZeroG system will play a key role in this work.”