First Posted December 2010, Updated October 2012
“I had spent 26 years waiting for something wonderful to happen,” Michelle Smith
confided. Michelle, who was born with cerebral palsy, has been seriously mobility challenged all her life. “I didn’t have the life of a 26 year old, due to the CP and the limitations that brings on— for example, I couldn’t even step down a curb or get in and out of a car without help.”
Something wonderful did happen for Michelle. “(My friend Nikki was watching Good Morning America in September, 2009 and saw a story about this amazing new type of orthotics that are based on electrical stimulation of the nerve endings. When she called me to make sure I had seen the story, my first thought was that I could probably benefit from this type of braces, but that it would likely be too far to travel to get them.”
The story was about the latest development in orthotics, an advanced system designed to use mild functional electrical stimulation to lift the foot to help an individual walk more safely and easily, including up and down stairs, uneven surfaces—even curbs. The ones she was fitted with are the Bioness NESS L 300*. The NESS L 300 eliminates the need for rigid braces, in most cases, and in some cases use of the NESS L300 has resulted in a permanent improvement in condition for patients, allowing them to walk without a device at all.
“The results were astounding. I got my Bioness orthotics on September 9, 2009 and saw an improvement within 18 minutes of trying them out. [Check out the video here.] That is when my whole life began to change!” she exclaimed.
“How Do You Run, Mom?”
Michelle, with her newfound mobility asked her mother that question one day several months ago. “For the first time in my life I can step backwards, sideways, go where I want to go without having to hold onto anyone—that alone was a miracle—and now I am learning to skip, hop, run, too!” As it turns out, her best teacher for all those fun things is her 3-year-old niece, Amber. “She and I are learning together.”
Recently, Michelle, daughter of Thomas Smith, pastor of Campti United Pentecostal Church in Campti, was delivering gumbo to a parishioner, as part of a fundraiser the Church was conducting to help offset the cost of her new orthotics, and surprised both herself and her sister by walking down the porch steps by herself, which didn’t have hand rails, without even thinking about it—till her sis pointed it out to her.
Asked about her experiences with Snell’s Orthotics and Prosthetics, she reported: “In all truth, the folks at Snell’s are like family to me. I call and talk to them regularly. They have been so good to me and have gone out of their way to help me.”
“Sometimes I just want to cry tears of joy at the drastic changes. I had quit driving years ago, but continued to renew my license, now I am working on driving again, as well as searching for a job in my field of accounting. Now that I am able to do things on my own, my social life has also changed. I can go and do with my friends without having to worry about planning each step ahead of time, or refusing invitations to places that are unfamiliar. The whole world has opened up to me, and I feel like the Bioness’ are a miraculous answer to my prayers. My parents are able to go to their hunting camp without having to worry about who is going to watch over me while they are gone, which I am so thankful for. This technology not only gave me a whole new life, it also gave my parents their lives back,” she continued.
“And, lately, I have been seeing improvement even without my braces on, which makes me think that I might fall into the category of people who regain nerve function from wearing them!”
Michelle’s family, in addition to dad, Thomas and niece, Amber, includes her twin sister,
Danielle, a younger sister, Kirby and her mother, Rosemary.
According to Clint Snell, CPO and President of Snell’s Orthotics and Prosthetics: “It was
very dramatic seeing the changes that Michelle made over time. Even the day we first put the Bioness on her she was able to managed curbs and uneven ground. She was so excited and enthusiastic! Since then she has continued to make a great deal of additional progress in activities of daily living. It does seem like the Bioness has enhanced Michelle’s life and allows her to do more—getting out and about and meeting new people and friends. It is so gratifying to see changes like this in a patient’s life.”
Update — A July Wedding!
Wonderful things just keep happening for Michelle. Through mutual church friends, Michelle met Cass Arnold at a group outing on October 1, 2010. After dating for a year and 2 months they were engaged to be married on January 5, 2012, Cass, himself a twin, and Michelle were married on July 14th of this year. “We were going to get married in my dad’s church, since originally the ceremony was going to be small. But, my mom changed my mind about a small wedding, so we are going to ‘go big’. For that reason, we were married in our former church in order to have room for the crowd,” Michelle said.
And, the wedding planning didn’t stop with Michelle’s big day. “My little sister is getting
married in 2013, so Mom was working on not just one but two weddings at the same time.
During that process we had a moment of kind of re-thinking the ‘go big’ decision!” she laughed.
In the end, the wedding turned out to be the just the kind of “fairy tale” event Michelle was
The spring of 2012 also saw the birth of Michelle’s second niece : “She is a miracle baby. My sister has Graves disease, so her pregnancy was extremely difficult. Thankfully, when she went into labor (a month early) she and her husband were in Shreveport that day and he rushed her to the ER where she had Addyson Leigh on Mother’s Day.”
Reflecting back on a more serious note, Michelle shared: “People don’t really realize the effects that a disabling health problem can have on your mental state. Prior to getting the Bioness braces, I couldn’t really do much on my own. That is a depressing place to be, no matter how hard you try to stay upbeat. Gaining mobility has changed so much in my life—it has freed me to reach my full potential, and in turn, given me more opportunity to help others, as well.”
Regaining her smile, she reports that: “Since I did the commercials about my experience with Snell’s, everywhere I go, people stop me to tell me they have seen me on tv! My facebook lights up with messages every time it airs, too.”
She is taking a break for the summer from school and will finish her bachelor’s degree this year. “I do so much now that were impossible before, and I am so grateful every day,” she concluded.