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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Technology helps stroke survivor take first steps at Madonna

November 16, 2022

A fun Labor Day weekend turned traumatic for Kansas City native Ashton Penrod when a tubing accident at the Lake of the Ozarks left her with a severe brain injury. The 26-year-old was flown to the University Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. Later, a blood clot on the left side of her head resulted in a stroke, which further complicated her condition.

“They didn't think I was going to make it when they first got the helicopter there,” Ashton said. “My aunt flipped me over, [who] realized I was unconscious. She saw that my pupils were two different sizes.”

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals specializes in comprehensive medical rehabilitation for both stroke and brain injuries. Ashton came to Madonna equally nervous and hopeful for the future.

“I was afraid at first I wasn't ever going to have [control of] my left side again, and I was just done for, and like life is kind of over,” However, thanks to Ashton’s determination and her Madonna care team, she is accomplishing so much more now.

“The first day I worked with her, it took two of us to stand her up, and it took two of us to walk with her with a platform walker,” Nicole Ford, her physical therapist, said. “She had a long way to go, but she was very focused and had the confidence she needed to see results in our daily therapy.”

With encouragement from her care team and the right technology, Ashton started to see major gains with her left side. Her first steps since the accident happened with the support of the Lokomat, a robotic treadmill that helps an individual simulate a walking-like movement pattern.

“So not only was it offloading some of her weight, she was able to increase her distance,” Ford said. “Ashton said, ‘I'm going to walk out of here,’ and I said, ‘yes, you will,’” Ford said.

Full of perseverance, Ashton progressed using Madonna’s ICARE by SportsArt, a motor-assisted elliptical that supports a patient’s bodyweight and helps to retrain leg muscles.

“I was able to facilitate her use of her quadriceps and her hamstring muscles in order for her to push through what looks like a repetitive gait pattern,” Ford said.

Ashton agreed that using this piece of technology proved to be a pivotal part of her recovery.

“I didn't fully trust my left leg yet, but after spending time on the ICARE, that really helped me learn how to trust my leg again,” Ashton said.

After her month-long stay at Madonna, Ashton fulfilled her promise and walked out Madonna’s doors, one foot in front of the other.

“It means the world [to me],”Ashton said. “I'm going to remember it [Madonna] as a place that has saved my life in a way. I'm beyond glad I came here.”

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