The system is safer both for the patient, who has no risk of falling, and the physical therapist, who no longer has to support the patient while he or she is learning to walk again, Gorton-Childers said.
After his stroke -- which he suffered while visiting Dolly Sods with his family in April 2011 -- Butch spent a week in ICU at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.
He was then taken to CAMC General for further treatment. When he was released, he started physical therapy at Thomas Memorial.
"When I started searching around, I found that this was the best around for outpatient [physical therapy]," Butch said. "I got Kelly's name and Donna's name as being the best [physical therapists], so I signed up with Kelly here and she's been doing a great job."
Butch said the system gives him confidence that he won't fall when walking on the treadmill.
"If you fall, you just hang there like a trout on a string," Butch said.
McGraw said the unweighting system has helped improve Butch's speed and balance. Before using the system during one six-minute walking test, he walked 250 feet. A month later, in a walking test for the same amount of time, he walked 391 feet, McGrew said.
Stroke patients are not the only ones who improve with the machine. Multiple sclerosis patients also use it, and McGraw said she is going to try it with patients with spinal cord injuries. Besides walking on the treadmill, it can also be used for patients learning to go from a sitting to a standing position and those walking without a treadmill, McGraw said.
Butch undergoes physical therapy with McGraw twice a week. Besides the machine, he also credits McGraw for his progress. She's tough on him, he said.
"If you ever decide that PT is boring to you, you could always go to the Army or the Navy and train Navy SEALs or Green Berets," he joked to McGraw one Tuesday morning during his physical therapy session.
"I love you too," she fired back.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.