Anti-gravity device lifts body weight, spirits

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SAUGET, Ill. - A retired Cahokia police officer, 66-year-old John Lampe, has had an active life. But some recent health problems have put Lampe in the slow lane.

"When John first starting coming to physical therapy, just getting out of the house was an issue," explains Lampe's physical therapist, Mike Riley at Archview Medical Center.

Lampe estimates his weight is over 300 lbs, which is a constant and painful burden on his two arthritic knees. The longtime lawman also copes with lower back pain and some cardiovascular issues.

But on a recent day when NewsChannel 5 met John Lampe, he was speed walking on an odd looking treadmill while carrying what appeared to be less than half of his body weight.

That's because he actually was walking at just 40% of his body weight.

"It's like a miracle," Lampe beams.

It feels like a miracle to Lampe but in truth, it's a device that came from the space program that's now helping people here on earth.

It is the Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill.

Mike Riley installed the treadmill, which costs in the neighborhood of $40,000, to help patients struggling to support their normal body weight and others with prosthetic limbs.

The results have been staggering.

"There is an absolute correlation between attitude and outcome," Riley beams.

Riley says there are only 1,000 of these treadmills in the United States.

Astronauts were the first to take advantage of this technology so they could learn to adjust to weightlessness. In recent years, elite athletes, like the Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose, used the treadmill to recuperate from injury.

Now, this advanced machinery meant for astronauts and athletic stars is within the reach of everyone.

As you can see in the video on this page, the Alter-G Anti Gravity Treadmill looks just like an ordinary treadmill but it has an air-tight plastic chamber that fills with air around a patient's waist.

"There's no pain," Riley says. "One of the biggest reasons people don't exercise or stop exercising is because of pain.

"I like to call them PT miracles. And with this machine we get to see a few more PT miracles every day."

Another patient, Johnnie B. Walker, has diabetes, a prosthetic leg, and is legally blind.

Learning to walk with confidence is a major issue for Walker.

"The biggest fear for people who have lost limbs is falling," explains Dr. Matthew Bradley, an orthopedic surgeon who has recommended patients for the anti-gravity treadmill at Archview Medical Center in Sauget.

"It keeps us from having to teach patients to walk with bad habits and the re-teach them with good habits," Dr. Bradley sums up.

Therapy on the anti-gravity treadmill is covered by some insurance plans, if it is prescribed by a doctor, but private sessions are available to anyone.

Riley says a typical plan costs $130 per month for 240 minutes on the treadmill, which breaks out into two weekly sessions of 30 minutes each.

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