By Annalise Klingbeil
Amanda Timm rolls her wheelchair to a large exercise bike in a small University of Calgary room, and uses her hands to lift her feet onto the bicycle’s black pedals.
The red-headed student straps her legs and wheelchair in place, then sticks four small grey pads on her bare thighs. She presses a button on the bicycle’s computer screen and soon, Timm’s legs are moving round and round, pedaling. It’s a remarkable feat considering Timm lost the use of her legs after suffering a T6 spinal cord injury in a ski accident in Fernie four years ago.
“I came off a cliff, caught an edge and cartwheeled into a tree. I was in the hospital for three months,” said Timm, who was a 17-year-old competitive skier when the accident occurred. “They kind of told me that this is life, here’s your wheelchair, deal with it.”
But Timm didn’t want to deal with being in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, and a day after getting out of the hospital, she travelled to Los Angeles, for intense rehabilitation. It was in L.A. that she first tried using a functional electrical stimulation (FES) bicycle, the same brand new futuristic contraption she’s demonstrating at the University of Calgary’s Thrive Centre on Wednesday afternoon.
“The first time I got on it, it was really weird, having my muscles move,” she said. “I thought I’d lost those.”
The exercise bike prompts nerves to fire allowing people, like Timm, who have paralyzed legs to cycle.