Altering the weight of my world |

Altering the weight of my world

Dear Editor:Today I walked on my legs for 30 minutes in the most normal unrestricted gait for the first time in 17 years of paralysis! No, I didn’t even use my leg braces. Imagine being an astronaut suspended in a pressure-regulated device that defies gravity. Today was my third day on the Aspen Club & Spa’s newest toy, the Alter-G, an anti-gravity treadmill.With the help of my trainer, Mark Alderdice, and my friend, Zander, I threaded my legs into a pair of customized neoprene compression shorts and wormed my way into the machine. Mark zipped the skirt-like extension at my waist to the ballooned frame, and I wiggled my legs into position.”OK, Amanda, put all your weight on the treadmill and keep as still as possible.”Mark touched the computer screen while it calibrated my body weight. From a crouched position I rose to standing as the bubble inflated. Digital numbers clicked by 20, 30, 40, 50, 60… Within seconds I was almost weightless and completely vertical standing tall on my own two legs! “Are you ready for the treadmill, Amanda?” asked Mark.”Yes, go for it. I’m ready. I won’t know ’til I try. Now let me fly!””We’ll start really slowly. We can increase the speed in 1 percent increments.”Before I knew it I was walking! I would never have imagined it possible – especially two years ago, prior to my first embryonic stem cell injection. I couldn’t move anything below my hips for 151⁄2 years. My body is still awakening. Words can’t describe my sensation of standing tall in my 5-foot-7 frame on my own two legs while walking in a true heel-toe-bend-knee-swing-forward motion. As I marched onward, consciously focusing on planting one foot in front of the other, I stretched my memory back to when I was a teenager, recalling the days when my legs ached after ballet or running hard. Today my legs ached. I have longed to feel my legs ache since that fateful ski accident that rendered me a paraplegic 17 years ago. While the idea of unweighting isn’t new, the Alter-G uses a pressurized bubble that provides a counterforce to a person’s bodyweight, reducing the effective weight on the treadmill surface. In essence, the machine gave me unrestricted mobility to maintain my body position and a somewhat normal gait.Mark and Zander were amazed at my newfound ability to move my trace muscles in this weightless device. Through the gift of the Aspen Club & Spa I will have the opportunity to use the Alter-G twice a week. Thank you, Michael Fox and Mark (and Zander, too). I am grateful beyond words. Today, you brought me to tears once again – sobering tears that remind me that I can be beautiful in my tallness, and that with a little determination and help from my friends I can achieve the impossible.Amanda BoxtelBasalt