News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 27, 2013

Event acknowledges Drew’s fight to walk

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Regaining the strength to walk on his own is the next goal of a former college athlete who continues to show remarkable recovery from a traumatic brain injury.

Drew Christy was a special guest Tuesday at the annual community service luncheon at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he waved and acknowledged the help he has received from student projects during his recovery.

Christy was a biomedical engineering student at RHIT when he was seriously injured in a February 2008 car accident while returning home from college. Given a slim chance of survival, his recovery has progressed to the point where he is now able to “walk” while assisted by a robot device at the Indianapolis Neuro Spinal Rehab.

His success at walking is partly because of the physical therapy he has received at the Hope Haven Horse Farm, which uses horses as part of the therapy process.

Three groups of biomedical engineering students at Rose-Hulman designed and developed devices that help riders such as Christy.

The iHorse Simulator is a high-tech version of a horse torso.

The Stable-izer is an electronic eyeglass warning system that detects when a rider begins to lean from a straight vertical riding position. The rider can then correct his or her posture to remain in the saddle.

A therapeutic saddle provides back, hand and leg support for riders.

All of those things have helped with core body strength for Christy, along with getting his hips and legs ready to walk again.

Christy’s mother, Debbie, father, Mark and grandmother, Lana Schimpf, attended Tuesday’s luncheon event to share their gratitude for the student-designed projects.

“It’s been fabulous,” Debbie Christy said. “There are new teams working with the horse project, and a new team is working at our home on ways for Drew to keep his head up.”

Maintaining upright posture is a challenge for Christy, but the student team is integrating his love of music into a device that monitors the position of his head. When his head goes down to his chest, the music volume decreases, and when his head is up, the music returns to normal.

“I’ve been doing that, turning the volume up and down,” she said, “but it will be better with this new device.”

The Stable-izer device has make a noticeable improvement in her son’s posture, she said, explaining that he used to lean to the side even when sitting.

“That’s why we wanted the Stable-izer,” she said, which takes direction from the eye movements of the rider. “Since he’s been using it, he hasn’t been leaning.”

University president James C. Conwell said the equine projects of the biomedical students are a good example of how RHIT students are putting knowledge to use for the betterment of the community.

“These are incredibly creative and powerful solutions that provide transformative experiences for our students, and clearly, transformative experiences for the people who benefit from them,” Conwell said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.