My first experience in the lab was the day before my spinal fusion. And I didn't enjoy it much, to say the least, due to a little bit of pre-op anxiety. But each time after has been very fun, and the workers are great and know me by name. So what goes on during these appointments?
First, we do walking and bending tests. They have me change into shorts and a tank top, and then they put these interesting robot-looking parts on me.
After they finish assembling me, I walk back and forth along the dark tiles seen in the picture above. The cameras on the walls and on tripods send a picture to the computer, which picks up the parts attached to my joints, and connects the dots. So then on the computer screen, you can see a stick figure walking back and forth. Then I bend forward and backward, lean side to side, and twist both directions to test my flexibility. The purpose is to compare pre-op motion to post-op, to see not only how much my range of motion has changed, but to see if I am more symmetrical and balanced after surgery than when I was more crooked.
When that part is over (which takes a good deal of time), we move on to the balance tests, which is my favorite. They hook me up to a harness and I step inside a panel with a screen in front of me.
A series of different tests are done. One is a lot like playing Wii Fit. There is a green person in the middle of the screen, and by leaning, you have to move him to each of the boxes that make a circle around him. And no cheating. Feet must remain grounded. My favorite test is when I have to stand as still as possible. If I move, the panel around me does too. Level two: If I move, the floor underneath me moves, as well. Level three: Do the same thing, but with my eyes closed. (That's the reason for harnessing the patient.)
According to the workers, my scores are always significantly higher than others'. I give the credit to high school cheerleading.
After a fairly long, but enjoyable, visit, I get to choose a prize for participating in the Gait Lab research. This time, the chosen item was an "anatomically correct spinal column key chain".
Three visits down, one more to go. My last one will be my 5-year post-op check. Wow! And then, it's good-bye to the Gait Lab.