Life took a dramatic turn for Ebondo Antoinette in 1989 just days after arriving to the U.S. from her native country of Congo.
Her daughter Mulekye Mukoko says Antoinette collapsed two days after arriving here. She was taken to Leland Hospital and then to Georgetown hospital. That's where they discovered that she had a tumor.
More than two decades later, it happened again. This time, doctors discovered two tumors. She recovered from the surgery but had challenges with mobility.
That's when the Treadsense device came into her life.
“We've designed a system where you have a TV screen and two web cameras that actually measure your movement while you're walking on the treadmill and gives you feedback so you can correct those movements because of that feedback,” says University of Maryland professor John Jeka.
Twice a week, Antoinette gets on the Treadsense with the help of her physical therapist and her daughter close by.
The machine offers several displays while the patient is in motion. Balance is key in all scenarios. In one image, the goal is to keep an “x” centered.
“You use vision, you use your inner ear, something called the vestibular system and you use the sensors in your muscles that all give you information about how you're standing, and without those, it's impossible to stand up right,” Jeka says.
A team at the University of Maryland kept all of this in mind and combined it with webcam technology and computer programming to create this one-of-a-kind equipment, which is being used now at the Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland.
Jeka believes every health club will have a similar machine in 20 years.
Compared to other machines, Jeka says it will be more affordable. But most importantly, he says it's far more effective than what's out there now. As the testing continues, the UMD research team is working with an outside vendor that plans to eventually put the product on the market.
“No one with a balance problem is going to step on a bongo board to work on their balance, it's going to be way too dangerous for them to do,” Jeka says.
And so far, the extra steps are adding up for patients.
“She (Antoinette) came here with a walker, and now she's using a cane,” Mukoko says.