I Walked for the First Time in 14 Years

I Walked for the First Time in 14 Years

In 2008 Sheree Palmer had a spinal embolism while exercising in her living room, she hadn’t walked since. That was until she participated in our eWALK neurostimulation trial. This is her story.

Meet Sheree

I lived a busy and fulfilling life with my husband Michael and two sons (who were in primary school) before suffering a spinal embolism in 2008. As a result, I sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) and became a paraplegic.

Before this, I worked part-time as a dental nurse and aerobics instructor and kept busy by playing tennis, doing gardening, going to the gym and ferrying my two children to all of their sporting commitments during the week and on the weekend. This all changed on that day 14 years ago.

Sheree with her family before her Spinal Embolism in 2008.

The day that it happened was a life-changing moment. There I was doing some exercises on the floor, and basically my legs just went numb. Unbeknownst to me, the embolism had lodged into my spinal cord. Little did I know that I would never be able to walk again from that day forward.

The Impact of SCI

When the doctor broke the news that I had an SCI and was now a paraplegic, I was beyond devastated and so were my family.

“I was literally walking around one day and the next day I’m in a wheelchair.”

Even though they told me that I wouldn’t walk again, it wasn’t so much in those words, but implied that I would need to learn to live a different life. It’s a confronting thing to learn that you don’t have a choice anymore of how you would like to live your life. And that the life that you were living is no longer going to be the life that you have.

Heartbreaking is the best way to describe having a spinal cord injury. It has totally and utterly changed my life and my family’s life, to the point where we had to sell our family home and move to a new home which required a lot of renovations to make it accessible for me. So, it was an absolute shock to us all and I had to learn to accept the fact that I would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

My eWALK Experience

eWALK was the first time I experienced the sensation of walking since my spinal embolism. The trial involved me doing 30 minutes of walking three to four times a week, harnessed on a treadmill. I received neurostimulation treatment in my sessions, which was delivered by electrodes placed on my skin.*

I had heard about neurostimulation being used for research into other disease areas like Parkinson’s Disease, but not for SCI. In my mind, neurostimulation is like waking up the pathways in your body and reminding them that you’ve got legs there to walk. So, in simplistic terms, all I needed was the power to be reconnected. That’s the way

I looked at it. Once the electrodes were connected and switched on, I think it wakes up your muscles and says, come on let’s get going!

Once I started the trial, I’d be lying in bed, and I could actually feel my muscles and quadriceps flickering. Still to this day, I can feel the transfer of weight going through my feet so it’s definitely strengthened that signal through my legs.”

Sheree on the eWALK trial.

Evaluating the Benefits: Temporary and Sustained

Prior to going on the trial, I was completely unable to walk. Fast forward 12 weeks and I progressed so much. A highlight moment for me was on the last day of the trial, where I walked the full length of the room at the gym assisted by a single crutch and callipers and moved between parallel bars.

The feeling of walking again was exhilarating but challenging at the same time. If you haven’t walked for 14 years, it’s always going to be a challenge!

The results and the promise of walking again, any step in that direction is positive and absolutely the biggest motivator of all. Sometimes I imagine myself just standing up and walking one day and I would just be so happy when that day comes. I know that there is a cure on the horizon, and if it’s not for me it will be for someone else.


*Important information: eWALK is a rigorous double blinded sham controlled clinical trial. Every volunteer receives 12 weeks of intensive exercise therapy. However, volunteers and scientists do not know whether a volunteer is receiving real or fake stimulation. This information will be available when eWALK results are finalised, which is anticipated to be in the first half of 2025.