Prematurely born at 26 weeks weighing less than a kilo, 20-year-old Tiffany Turjillo was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months. Along with cerebral palsy came blindness caused by Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Her parents were told she would never talk or walk.
Cerebral palsy affects Turjillo through extreme weakness in both legs, along with “foot drop” condition. But her parents were not going to let the diagnosis deter them. They worked hard for their daughter, putting her through intense speech therapy and physical therapy every day of the week. This hard work paid off and she learned to talk. However, her gait remained substantially hindered.
But technology has come a long way in the last few years. And now, thanks to a small medical device called WalkAides (developed by Donald Brandt of Hanger Clinic), Turjillo is doing much better. The device uses electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve (the one that controls movement of the foot and ankle) which encourages muscle contraction as a way of dealing with foot drop and restoring mobility to those with cerebral palsy and related disabilities. It does this with an embedded accelerometer to figure out accurate timing for stimulation with each step.
WalkAide has really helped Turjillo. She has shown a significant escalation in energy and strength. And this has helped her with her dream of cheerleading! As a Junior Denver Broncos Cheerleader at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the young lady is now able to more easily keep up with the other cheerleaders. Using WalkAide she can now run much faster and can even jump. She also uses it to participate in and teach ballet at F.R.I.E.N.D.S of Broomfield (the organization for people with developmental disabilities). And now Turjillo wants to go even further. She has dreams of one day opening her own dance studio for people with all levels of ability.