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Occupational therapist Miranda Miller demonstrates an anti-gravity treadmill at FutureCare Homewood's new rehabilitation gym. (Photo courtesy of FutureCare).

FutureCare debuts high-tech, $600K rehab gym

FutureCare’s 20-year-old Homewood rehabilitation facility has gotten an upgrade: a new gym that offers a variety of state-of-the-art equipment in one place.

The $600,000 gym celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon. It includes a device originally designed by NASA to help astronauts maintain muscle mass in low-gravity environments by simulating gravity.

Developed at NASA in the early 1990s, the technology was licensed in 2005 to the California-based Alter G, which began using it for the opposite purpose: its treadmill uses a sort of inflatable cuff to place air pressure on the patient’s lower body, which reduces the amount of weight the patient places on the ground rather than increasing it, according to NASA.

“It’s like having a giant balloon around you that actually lifts you off the ground,” said Diane Vernon, FutureCare’s director of business development.

For patients with certain neurological conditions or orthopedic issues that prevent them from putting their full weight on their legs, the device allows them to practice walking and develop their strength.

While the treadmill is already available at various rehab clinics around Maryland, including several MedStar facilities, FutureCare believes the new gym offers the largest collection of advanced rehab technology in one place.

There’s also a sensor system – known as VirtuSense – that can analyze a patient’s gait and balance and provide instant feedback, and the Tran-Sit, an adjustable car simulator that allows patients to practice getting in and out of their vehicles, Vernon said.

Another system offers a series of games to help patients recover and sharpen cognitive, memory and hand-eye coordination after strokes or other events.

The gym is  available to those staying at the 148-bed, short-stay inpatient facility at Homewood, and FutureCare may offer it as an outpatient service in the future, Vernon said.

Founded in 1986, FutureCare has 13 locations in the Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and the Baltimore area.