CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- James Butch was recovering from an April 2011 stroke, but when his progression had slowed earlier this year, his physical therapist, Kelly McGraw, made a suggestion.
"Kelly got me walking pretty good with the cane, but I wasn't walking very fast," Butch recalled. "She said, 'I know what we need to get you walking faster. We need to get you a treadmill you can't fall down on.'"
Butch's stroke had rendered him unable to use his left leg. He had started walking with physical therapy at Thomas Memorial Hospital. The hospital didn't have the equipment McGraw thought he needed to improve even more -- an unweighting system.
The system allows patients to be harnessed above a treadmill or elsewhere. The harness supports some of a patient's weight while they're learning to walk again. A computer system tracks the patient's speed and other measures of progress.
"[The unweighting system] gets you to the next level because it's repetition," McGraw said. "With strokes, you want to do repetition, repetition, repetition because that's how they recover."
The hospital's budget didn't have the money for the $20,000 equipment. But, McGraw told Butch, they only needed $5,000 -- the Foundation for the Thomas Memorial and Saint Francis Hospitals would pay the rest.
"So I made arrangements to hand them a $5,000 check," said Butch, the president of Eagle Research Corp.
Butch is a frequent donor to Thomas Memorial, he said. "Good people doing good work need to be supported," he said.
South Charleston's Thomas Memorial got the Biodex Unweighting System about four months ago and is the only hospital in the area with one, said Donna Gorton-Childers, director of physical therapy for the hospital.
Charleston Area Medical Center has a similar system for inpatient therapy and may get a system for outpatient therapy, spokesman Dale Witte said.
The system is fairly new, Gorton-Childers said. It's been on the market for only about two years.