This month’s success story features a truly remarkable couple. Allow me to introduce – James and Laura Kinney!

I was very fortunate to get to know James and Laura during a recent clinical trial for the iStride device™. When I think of people who inspire me, James is one of the first who comes to mind. James shows us that hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude can improve even the toughest of circumstances. Here is a little bit about James’s journey after stroke…

In September 2017, James and his wife Laura had just returned home from exercising at the YMCA. Upon returning home, Laura noticed he wasn’t moving normally and suddenly couldn’t speak. Working in the medical field, Laura was aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke and knew something was very wrong. As the ambulance arrived,  the couples’ three young sons were also arriving home from school. “It was scary, to say the least,” replies Laura. Upon arriving at the hospital, they learned James, at age 53, was experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke. (A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain). James required treatment in a neurologic intensive care unit to stabilize his medical status.

The following three months were spent moving from the hospital to various rehabilitation settings before finally returning home. However, when James returned home, he was in a very different state from when he left. It felt as if I was “split down the middle” describes James, further elaborating by gesturing a line down the center of this body. Laura describes:

“When James returned home, he was not yet able to walk. He used a wheelchair for his mobility and required help with nearly everything – showering, shaving, moving from his wheelchair into and out of his bed. But one of the most difficult things was his speech and communication.” James’s stroke occurred in the left hemisphere of the brain in an area that is responsible for the production of speech. Essentially, James understood everything but couldn’t find the right words to respond. “Frustrating is an understatement,” describes Laura. While the subsequent months were challenging, Laura and James kept themselves from becoming overwhelmed by focusing on “one milestone at a time.” “It’s easy to become overwhelmed looking at the big picture, so we really try to focus on individual achievements,” explains Laura. One of the most significant milestones to date? “When we finally got to get rid of the wheelchair, that felt really good,” Laura recalls.

We met James in October 2018, 13 months after his stroke. At this time, James walked using an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) and quad cane. Laura described feeling nervous that James would be able to walk on a device designed to further challenge his balance. Their opinion quickly changed, however, when James felt comfortable walking on the iStride device™ by the end of the first session! Laura further describes her experience with the iStride device™…

“I could immediately tell that it was working. James was working hard, and I knew the effort was coming from the right leg (his affected leg) being forced to do the work. In all of his rehab and prior physical therapy visits, he would never sweat or work that hard. This was more intense, but in a good way. It wasn’t just that he was working hard, it was the fact that the device was requiring the work to come from his right side. It’s so hard to find something that makes you work the weaker side that isn’t hurting you in the process.”

Laura continues, “Since his stroke, he had become very dependent on his left leg. This was the first thing he has used that made him really use the right leg again. It was perfect for him because he needs a challenge and a goal. This gave him both those things. I noticed a big improvement in his confidence in his affected leg. Once he gained confidence in his leg, he started to use it more and more, even after stopping using the iStride device™. This is part of why he is not using the cane as much anymore, he has more confidence in the leg.”


I had the pleasure of visiting James and Laura for his one-year follow-up appointment (one-year after completing his iStride device™ treatment). Remember the milestones I mentioned earlier? Since meeting James, I, personally, have been witness to several of these achievements. Within the past few months, James has been able to downsize from a wider based quad cane to one with a smaller base (providing less support and indicating that James now needs less external stability from assistive devices). Excitingly, he has also recently been able to transition from his AFO to only using a small ankle splint. In other achievements, James, a former professional poker player, now can drive, play poker with friends, and has even been able to travel to several poker tournaments (including staying independently in hotels and managing all communication and mobility without assistance). James is also now able to speak clearly enough to order food at drive-throughs.

I asked James and Laura how they stay motivated through all of the challenges they have faced. Laura replied, “I’ll be right back” and retrieved a whiteboard with a simple message, “Don’t Give Up!” If you look closely, you’ll see a small drawing of a fencer, (another one of James’s passions before his stroke). “It’s not much, but it keeps us going,” says Laura. James replied, “I started out at 5% but now I feel like I am 75% whole. I only have 25% to go.” Amazing progress! James’s next goal on the horizon? Saying goodbye to cane, for good.

At this rate, that cane doesn’t stand a chance 🙂

Whatever challenges may come, if we take James’s advice and “don’t’ give up” we will surely increase our odds of a positive outcome. We are grateful to James, Laura, and all of our iStride™ users who allow us to be a part of their recovery. Keep up the great work!!


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