TULLY, NY (WSYR-TV) — Walter Dixon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019 and, as an avid outdoorsman, it made life difficult.
“My problem is blockage of movement, difficulty getting started,” he said, “Once I start I’m good to go, but you know the old adage that you can’t walk and chew gum? If I walk and chew gum, I might stop.
Dixon suffers from a very common but debilitating symptom of Parkinson’s disease called gait blockage. Gait freeze occurs when people suddenly lose the ability to take a step due to failed neuro-connections – leading to dangerous falls and lack of independence.
“The reason this happens is because of a specific neural pathway in the brain that is damaged or disconnected,” Sidney Collin said, “So when your brain sends this signal to initiate movement, that signal doesn’t simply does not reach the motor neuron that activates your muscles.
Collin, founder and CEO of De Oro Devices, a Med-Tech start-up, created a device to solve this problem. It uses simple audio and visual cues designed to “trigger” the brain into using these damaged pathways.
“It gives me something to look at so to speak,” Dixon said, “triggers my brain to look at the laser and put my foot through it or kick it. And walk in there so it gives me something towards what to move forward and then what it does, it helps to trigger my thinking.
Although Collin knows the techniques used, once she created the device and tested it, she almost couldn’t believe it.
“I had read about the impact,” she said, “I logically knew that those visual and auditory cues worked, but seeing it happen was a whole other thing.”
But for Dixon, it was life changing.
“It helps stabilize me, it gives me the ability to walk,” and added, “It gives me a lot of courage to do things I wouldn’t do now.”
For those interested in learning more, visit the De Oro website.