MUM-OF-TWO Karen experienced sudden paralysis caused by undiscovered arthritis.
Five years ago, the mum-of-two’s life was shattered when she awoke one morning to find herself lying on the floor paralysed from the chest down.
Since then, Karen, 57, has had to rely on others for a helping hand. But now, thanks to a bionic glove and intensive therapy, she is able to feed herself, brush her teeth and do her own make-up.
Before using the innovative hand therapy device – which is controlled via a computer – the former office administrator had limited movement in her left hand and hardly any in her right.
Now Karen, who lives in Glasgow’s west end , can straighten her fingers, grasp objects and raise her hands to her face.
The grandmother-of-two admits the special glove made by Gloreha, which looks like a prop from a Hollywood sci-fi movie, has given her a new lease of life.
She said: “It’s like my hands have come alive again. I can’t even begin to put into words what it feels like to be able to do my own make-up, brush my teeth and, best of all, hold a wine glass.
“It’s been incredible. There are motorised metallic rods on the glove, which are controlled by a computer and allow me to painlessly straighten my fingers and grip.
“When I take the glove off, my hands can move more freely and, over time, I have been able to do more and more for myself. Regaining this bit of independence is a dream come true.”
Karen, who is mum to Chris, 34, and Gemma, 32, will never forget the morning in February 2010 when she lost use of her legs and lower body.
She said: “My life changed overnight. One day I was hill climbing with my family, the next I was paralysed, confined to a wheelchair and having to resign myself to the
fact I would never walk again.
“All I remember is waking up and not being able to move.
“I spent six months in the spinal unit at Glasgow’s Southern General where doctors discovered I had been suffering from arthritis in my neck and shoulders, which had caused the bones around the spinal chord in my neck to harden.”
Karen, who is married to refrigeration boss Bobby, added: “It was a really difficult time for my family. Nothing can prepare you for something like that.
“I decided early on that I had two choices – I could give in and lead a miserable life or get on with it and make the best of the situation.
“With the support of my family and friends, I have done just that.”
During her time in hospital, Karen – who has two-year-old twin grandsons – received intense hand therapy from Leslie Wallace, who specialises in upper limb rehabilitation.
She added: “Leslie brought me on leaps and bounds. At first, my right hand and arm were stuck motionless against my body but it wasn’t long before she got the movement going.
“When I left the hospital, I continued to work with Leslie privately and, when she was
asked to try out the new glove on a patient, I was happy to volunteer.
“The results were immediate and every time I slip on the glove, I feel myself getting a little bit stronger. If I had £4000 to spare, I would buy my own portable version.
“The Southern General spinal unit has Scotland ’s only professional version of the glove but you can buy a smaller type to use in the home.
“It would be great if more of the machines could be made available.
“I’ve accepted my life will never be the same again and at times I find it really tough, like when I cannot hold my grandsons. But I’m a positive person and have learned to live with the blow I have been dealt.
“Thanks to the glove and my amazing therapist, I can go out for a family meal and feed myself. The little things mean a lot.”
Therapist Leslie said: “When I saw the machine, I knew instantly who to try it on. We had been stretching the fingers manually, which was slowly helping, but the glove speeded everything up. The difference is incredible. I really hope it will be made available in hospitals across Scotland.”
Derek Jones, director of Anatomical Concepts (UK), the company who supply the glove, said: “We discovered the glove in Italy and are trying to make it more widely available throughout the UK. Karen is proof of how much difference it can make to people’s lives.”