SALT LAKE CITY ― After suffering a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 2014, Kelly Thomas was told that she would probably never walk again.
But now, after being selected to participate in a study at the University of Louisville, Thomas can once again walk on her own, using a walker as her only assistance.
According to The Verge, Thomas is one of two people in the study who have regained the ability to walk thanks to the implant of a nerve stimulator in her spinal cord. When the nerve stimulator is on, she can kick her legs, move her toes and even walk. When it’s off, Thomas is completely paralyzed.
CNN has reported that a third person has reportedly had similar success at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
However, the treatment doesn’t hold the same results for everyone.
“[T]wo other study participants at the University of Louisville did not re-learn how to walk, though they can now stand, hold their torsos upright, and move their legs,” reported The Verge.
And, according to CNN, just having the stimulator implanted was not enough. It takes months of extra therapy to help people fully recover.
For Thomas, after the surgery it took months of grueling physical therapy sessions before she took her first steps.
But she said all of the work was worth it.
“Something I was never supposed to do ever just happened. It was awesome. There’s no other feeling like it in the world.”
As of now, there are only theories behind how and why the treatment works. According to The Verge, the device "delivers electrical stimulation to her spinal cord."
Scientists are still conducting further research in an effort to fully comprehend the varying results.
"But before the team can do those larger trials, the tech needs to become more accessible," according to The Verge. "Right now, the controllers have to be operated by hand, and hand function can be limited by spinal cord injuries, depending on the injury’s location. So, a key step will be to make the stimulators voice-activated. The tech exists, but applying it to a spinal stimulator takes investment from the tech sector."