Once paralyzed, now walking: A push for coverage for activity-based therapy

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With every step she takes, Kay Ledson is trying to bring hope to those with a spinal cord injury.

“I am walking 3085 miles, says,” explained Kay Ledson, who founded Warrior Momz.

The Australian mother is walking across America — an estimated 7 million steps — to spread the word about the benefits of activity-based therapy. Her trip recently brought her to Ashland, where she met with the United Spinal Association of Virginia and folks like Richmonder Evan Neal-Pishko, who eight years ago, suffered a spinal cord injury.

“I fell off a balcony on to a big dumpster,” Neal-Pishko said.

Neal-Pishko and Ledson know activity-based therapy makes a difference.

Ledson’s son, Josh, shattered his vertebrae in a snowboarding accident.

“Within nine hours, the doctors had basically said he was a complete quadriplegic, his spinal cord was crushed and he would never get out of bed again,” Ledson said.

With the use of activity-based therapy, stimulating and working out the body below the injury, Josh is now walking, married and fathered a child. He even burned his wheelchair.

“Josh actually walked out of hospital four and half months after he was admitted,” Ledson said.

“I have come a long way since my injury,” Neal-Pisko added.

He was told by doctors after his accident he would never walk again. Yet today he can lift himself out of his wheelchair, walk and work out on a specialized elliptical.

“I have been coming here to the gym for probably about seven years, now three times a week for three hours about each time,” he said.

Neal-Pisko added, “I have a just enough strength now to walk around funny but I am walking around, so that’s good.”

Amazing stories of recovery, but the therapy is limited.

“This kind of therapy costs money and it is not covered by medical insurance,” Ledson explained.

Every year in the United States, there’s an estimated 17,000 new spinal cord injuries. Yet, less than 10 percent seek recovery once discharged from the hospital.

And it’s expensive: Therapy can averaging between $85 to $125 dollars an hour. Most patients need two to three hours of it a day at least three days a week. At a minimum, that’s $510 a week.

The equipment can be pricey, too. A specialized exercise bike costs $22,000.

“It is very expensive to be injured in this world,” Neal-Pishko said.

Ledson, though, believes this kind therapy could actually save money in the long run.

“It is proven that the ones that have activity-based therapy can go on to lead meaningful lives, professions,” she said. “They are not on the social security, they are also not in the hospital.”

Next week, Ledson and members of the United Spinal Association of Virginia will lobby lawmakers in Washington pressing them to include activity-based therapy in all medical insurances.

“My body wants to work, my body wants to stand,” Neal-Pishko said.

“There are so many success stories using activity-based-therapy, insurance companies can’t really ignore it and neither can the lawmakers,” Ledson added.

In the meantime, Ledson is also raising money to help others with this therapy. If you wish to donate, click here.

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