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Foundation Brings New Therapy Equipment to Metro

ANKENY, Iowa –New equipment is helping people with spinal cord and brain injuries make progress in their therapy. The injuries can be devastating, and equipment used in therapy is expensive.  A family works to bring those tools to the metro.

Pedaling is hard work for Rhonda Payton, but a new bike at On With Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center makes it easier. "It helps to relax the muscles," she said.

It's called an FES bike, which stands for functional electrical stimulation. On With Life got the therapy tool a couple weeks ago. Rhonda is one of the first to use it. She's recovering from a brain injury, and it helps her regain cardio endurance and muscle control. Physical Therapist Lindsay Maltas said, "This allows us to hit 12 different muscles at the same time, so we have kind of six set up on each side. So, we can really get at a lot of different muscle groups, and it fires them when they need to fire."

The high tech bike costs $36,000. The brain injury rehabilitation center wouldn't have it without the help of a donation from the SCI CAN Foundation. SCI stands for spinal cord injury. CAN stands for Christopher Anderson Norton, who started the foundation with the help of his family.

Dad Terry Norton said, "Chris was injured playing college football at Luther College and initially given a three percent chance of having any movement below his neck."

Norton said Chris suffered a C3-C4 spinal cord injury. “It was just a freak accident."

That was October of 2010. When Chris returned home to Iowa from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he couldn't find the same equipment that helped his recovery and eventually allowed him to walk across the stage with help at his college graduation. He and his family started the SCI CAN Foundation in 2012 to make the latest equipment more accessible.

Mom Deb Norton said, "When you're thrown into a situation like this, you have to embrace it. You have a couple different choices, you can kind of feel sorry for yourself and be sad, or you can do something positive, and that's what we chose."

The foundation raised more than $500,000 in four years. Grants have gone to area hospitals, ChildServe and On With Life. OWL Director of Therapy Dave Anders said, "It's incredibly important for us to stay up on new technologies that make rehabilitation go better for our persons served and make outcomes more robust for those folks we are privileged to serve."

The bike already helped Rhonda. "It's fun, and I like it," she said.

Chris Norton is now a motivational speaker and lives in Florida with his fiancee. He will be back in town for the SCI CAN’s annual fundraiser called Overcoming Adversity. The dinner and auction is Saturday, February 25th at 5:30. It's at Prairie Meadows Events Center in Altoona. Chris will be the keynote speaker. You can find information about tickets here.