How Hollywood technology gives young patients freedom to walk

Brooklyn Drury is being transformed into a walking CGI character. The 12-year-old says it feels just plain "weird" wearing motion sensors just like in the movies.

"They bounce when you walk," she observed.

But this isn't Hollywood. It's Shriners Children's Hospital in Tampa. Brooklyn is in their newly upgraded, state-of-the-art Motion Analysis Center, or MAC.

The physical therapy team who runs it says the improvement is immense.

"Twenty years ago, we had eight infrared cameras and two digital cameras. Right now, we have 18 infrared cameras and two more advanced digital cameras. So it's 20 years advancement in the technology we use now compared to when I started," explained Rene Vanwieringen, a senior physical therapist at Shriners.

The MAC combines video and data to analyze how patients walk in a very detailed way.

"When you think about how kids walk, it’s very complicated," explained orthopedic surgeon and MAC medical director Dr. Joseph Khoury. "And if there is any kind of neurological problem, that makes it so complicated you can’t see everything going on just by watching someone walk with your own eyes. You have to slow it down, look at it from every angle."

A technician monitors the screen as Brooklyn Drury walks for the cameras.

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A vast majority of patients who are analyzed by the MAC, like Brooklyn, have cerebral palsy. When she was born at 28 weeks, her mother was told she'd never walk.

"I cried a lot. I prayed a lot," Angie Drury recalled.

Brooklyn started coming to Shriners at just 18 months old.

"Brooklyn has been part of the family ever since then and she has gone from a wheelchair to a walker and now walking on her own now," she continued.

The MAC better helps doctors design a plan of action to treat patients. In Brooklyn's case, it helped Dr. Khoury discover a deformity below the hip he couldn't see with the naked eye.

"If you watch her walk, it looks like she is in-toeing on the right side, but there are problems at the ankle and knee that you normally wouldn’t see unless you have the motion analysis," he said.

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Dr. Khoury says the MAC gives Shriners and their young patients a huge advantage.

To fix the Brooklyn's problem will require surgery. She says she is scared, but doctors are confident the results will have a big impact on her life.

"We are just going to go ahead and have it done, that way Brooklyn can run and play just like a normal child," added Angie.

The Motion Analysis Center costs about a million dollars and was made possible through the generosity of Shriners donors. It can also be used to treat children with spina bifida, leg length differences and trauma patients.

Shriners has 15 such facilities spread throughout the country.