Logan McDonald's doctors call him a medical miracle, now walking after coma thanks to robot
10:04 PM, Jan 29, 2013
2:06 AM, Jan 30, 2013
TAMPA - Logan McDonald joined the US Marine Corps right after high school. He hoped to work as a mechanic for armed combat vehicles.
He expected to stay years, but barely made it a month.
"Four weeks," he explained.
More than a year later, Logan still has a hard time talking. During basic training, doctors believe a mosquito bit him, giving him a deadly form of encephalitis.
He spent almost two months in a coma, and even though he surprised everyone by waking up, the once-active 19-year-old had lost virtually every function.
"I'd look at him and remember how he was the day that he left, and wondering, 'Will I ever see him that way again? Will I ever be able to hug him? Will he ever be able to hug me again?'" remembered Logan's grandmother, Anita Loper.
The answer from Logan's doctors: Probably not. They believed he'd likely remain bed-ridden for life, but that was an answer Logan's family refused to hear.
So, they brought him to James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.
"It's very characteristic of those we've seen from the military. They always want to do more," explained Dr. Steven Scott, Chief of Medical Rehabilitation at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. "Be able to participate and give back to this country as they gave before."
Luckily, the hospital owns one of the few Lokomat robotic walking machines in Florida that's used outside of research.
Therapists can program Logan's unique body dimensions and abilities into a computer. Then, robotic legs are strapped to his own legs. They move his body in order to re-train his brain.
"It's making his legs do what he cannot do on his own, which then sends the signal to the brain to remember that," said Logan's therapist, Karen Noblitt.
The movement creates memories of walking and strengthens Logan's brain by strengthening his muscles.
"So, people now are walking that couldn't walk in the past," Dr. Scott said.
When Logan first started, he could barely move. Now he can use a walker.
"He continues to progress and I think he will continue to progress after he leaves here," Noblitt said. "He's a hard worker and I think that's a lot of it too. He has that internal drive."
On Thursday, he'll get what he wished for even more than using his legs.
"To go home," he smiled.
Discharging Logan from the hospital is something staff never thought they'd see.
Certainly, they never thought they'd see him dance with his grandmother in a therapy room just days before his return to Mississippi.
"That's what I've been pushing for from the very beginning," Loper said of her grandson. "Just give him that chance to be back to normal."