Among Nelson, a Certified PoNS (Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator) Specialist, works with patient Isaac Kohtakangas, who is uses the PoNS device during a rehabilitation session in Calgary at Synaptic, Spinal Cord Injury and Neurological Rehabilitation Centre. Calgary, Alta. on Monday, August 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Among Nelson, a Certified PoNS (Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator) Specialist, works with patient Isaac Kohtakangas, who is uses the PoNS device during a rehabilitation session in Calgary at Synaptic, Spinal Cord Injury and Neurological Rehabilitation Centre. Calgary, Alta. on Monday, August 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

‘I do miss dancing’: Calgary patient sold on tongue-tingler neural therapy

A 38-year-old business intelligence analyst from Calgary has completed 14 weeks of neurological treatment

Isaac Kohtakangas just cleared several hurdles to becoming more self-sufficient as he lives with multiple sclerosis.

The 38-year-old business intelligence analyst from Calgary has completed 14 weeks of neurological treatment at the city’s Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre.

The hurdles were literal — eight green barriers, about 15 centimetres off the ground, that Kohtakangas high stepped over with the use of two poles.

“It’s less about leaning on (them) for support and more about just balancing myself so I’m upright,” he said.

It wasn’t something he could have done before he began therapy in August.

“It’s definitely helped me with balance. I feel more confident and stable on my feet. I’m more aware of where my body is in space when I’m standing and walking, and I’m able to catch myself if I’m a little bit off,” he said.

Navigating life is just simpler, he said. “Getting in and out of the car is easier and being able to lift my legs up over the door edge, getting around in a restaurant … between chairs and in tight spaces.”

A device called PoNS — short for portable neuromodulation stimulator — sits on the surface of the tongue and delivers mild, high-frequency electrical impulses while a patient undergoes an intense regimen of daily physiotherapy. The hope is the tiny tingles lead to neuroplasticity and encourage new neural connections.

Clinics in Surrey, B.C., and in Montreal also offer the therapy.

Kohtakangas was diagnosed in 2011 with the autoimmune disease, which attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damage and disruption of nerve impulses.

He had to complete the last 12 weeks of the program at home, morning and night.

“I do not miss it. I dreaded PoNS for the amount of time that it involved. It was like having homework every day and it was never homework that I could put off until the next day. I had to do it that night. I had to do it in the morning.”

The executive director of Synaptic said Kohtakangas has definitely improved.

“All of the functional measures we used at the beginning and measured through to the end have shown significant clinical improvement, so we’re really excited for him,” said Uyen Nguyel.

“Probably the biggest areas of improvements would be his balance and his co-ordination through his walking — even his walking speed and his endurance.”

Kohtakangas said the therapy isn’t cheap. He had to pay $22,000 out of pocket, but since he no longer drives, he considered the cost the same as if he’d bought a car.

Some of the paces he was put through resembled dance steps.

“I was getting some kidding about that during the therapy,” he laughed.

“I’ve done a little bit at home, some two-stepping a little bit … I do miss dancing and I haven’t done that for quite a while.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Bids for Kids poster
Wolf Creek Youth Foundation online auction gets ‘overwhelming’ response

Santa’s Bids for Kids auction to benefit youth programs in Rimbey, Ponoka

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A pedestrian wears masks while out walking in front of the Alberta Legislature as the COVID-19 numbers spike in Edmonton on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Doctor says Alberta restrictions not enough to reduceCOVID-19 strain on hospitals

Mithani notes people are still allowed to gather indoors at large places of worship and in bars,

Most Read