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Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA

A Grand Lake teen involved in a horrible car crash two months ago is learning to walk and stand again, thanks to balance equipment developed by NASA. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital is the only medical facility in the region housing the out-of-this-world technology, known as “Neurocom.”

A simple toe raise has become a challenge for 17-year-old Jasmine Gray after enduring a head injury in a car crash two months ago. “A truck hit our car head on and I hit the window and crushed parts of my face,” said Jasmine.

When the truck hit the car Jasmine was riding in – she and three friends were sent to the hospital – changing Jasmine’s view of the world around her. “I had a fractured skull and a broken eye socket,” she said.

The trauma took away Jasmine’s ability to hear in her right ear and caused some deeper issues that landed her in the care of Dr. Nicholas Cronan with Memorial’s Team Therapy. “It knocked out not only the hearing portion of the ear, but also the inner ear, which controls the balance,” he said.

The Neurocom system is a piece of technology first developed by NASA to help retrain astronauts with balance problems after leaving space.

Dr. Cronan can manipulate the environment around Jasmine inside the balance module, changing the height, depth and angle. “I stand on it and it moves and I have to try to keep balance and keep this little person in the box,” she said.

For Jasmine, this equipment is being used to retrain her brain to listen to the functioning inner ear – getting rid of the vertigo and instability. “I basically find what makes her moderately dizzy on a scale of one to 10,” said Dr. Cronan, “I look for about a five and I make her do it over and over again until basically her brain builds up a tolerance to that stimuli.”

Infrared goggles also show that Jasmine’s eyes are no longer drawn to only the functioning inner ear side – a major sign of improvement for this teen with a personal message about driving safety to avoid the struggles she has endured. “Be aware at all times of who’s out there,” she said, “and you should always wear your seatbelt.”

The Neurocom system can also be used to treat stroke and orthopedic patients, as well as prevent falls in older adults. Jasmine’s treatment took about six weeks with one intense hour-long session each week.

January 31, 2018
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