After A Freak Accident, This Sea Captain Created A Device That Helps People Walk Again

Jon ChristiansenJon Christiansen incorporated Sensastep into his prosthetic.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Jon Christiansen

In 1985, Jon Christiansen’s leg was severely damaged when it was caught in the rudder of a boat he was helping to pilot.Over the next 18 years, the commercial boat captain underwent 42 knee surgeries, including three knee replacements, to deal with the pain of a freak accident that had mangled his left leg. By this time, Christiansen had lost all sensation in his foot. 

That caused some problems. 

“I was welding on a ship one day, smelled something burning, and a piece of slag fell on my knee — I didn’t even know it.”

The final straw was a spill in 2003.

“I was stepping off a gangway, and just went straight down,” Christiansen explains. “So my wife said, ‘We’ve gotta come up with something that tells you where your foot is.’ “

That’s when Christiansen enlisted the engineering skills of two loyal friends to devise a technology that would help him walk again. After nearly a year of trial and error, the team came up with Sensastep.

The two-part device uses sounds to reteach your brain to know when to send a “step” signal to your leg, after it has forgotten how to do so [See how Sensastep works in detail

“It’s basically like a jumper cable between where a foot should be, and a brain,” Christiansen said. “I  can almost feel my foot — my brain thinks it can feel where my foot is,” he said.

The device is small and relatively unnoticeable. It only requires 30 minutes of use before your brain can recall the tone pattern on its own. Then you can discard the device for the rest of the day. 

Christiansen calls it a lifesaver and says the product will benefit anyone who has lost sensation in their legs, including diabetes sufferers, Parkinson’s disease patients and even stroke victims.

While there’s been some progress in neurology studies to restore sensation in these patients, there is nothing  as cheap and simple that hacks one of the main underlying problems of being insensate.   

Christiansen recently underwent an amputation after the pain in his leg became too great.  

But he instantly incorporated Sensastep into his prosthetic.

See how this small insole can help people walk again >  

See our list of Game Changers: 30 Innovations That Will Change The World >

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