Car simulator helps patients who've suffered spinal cord injuries

Published 07/25 2014 05:46PM

Updated 07/25 2014 06:49PM

It's been one month since a farming accident left Lucas Stewart pinned underneath a hay bale.

"When it happened I knew I broke my back."

In an instant, Stewart lost the feeling in much of his body and with it, the ability to walk, stand or drive.

Occupational therapist Orlando Berlanga has been working with Stewart in this trans-sit car transfer simulator: a safe alternative to practicing in the parking lot of the hospital - the only real-time option prior to this equipment.

Orlando Berlanga says we would definitely practice on different levels of mat tables and then we would go down to their actual car if they could bring it up here and do hands on with their car.

This system will adjust to the height of your car, truck or s-u-v.

"this one you can raise the height."

And it has hand controls for patients that can no longer use the foot pedals.

"Anybody that can't use their legs, they can use the hand controls for the gas and the brake."

"One of the most important tests to see if it's safe for a patient to once again get behind the wheel looks at the reaction time when starting and stopping."

The reaction test can give an accurate gauge of how safe it is for a patient to get back behind the wheel.

"We know they can get in the car safely and we can do actual practice with their families and make sure everything's safe."

Stewart says the therapy can be exhausting, but it's worth seeing little improvements - like the feeling returning to his legs.

"I come in and do the best I can. I try to do as much as I can."

Stewart's dream is to see this car transit simulator bring him one step closer to his ultimate goal.

"I plan on trying to walk again."

The car transit simulator at that hospital was donated but the system costs about 15-thousand dollars.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.