Share story

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — In the five years since Celeste Child, 54, had a stroke, she’s recovered better than anyone thought she would.

The entire left side of Child’s body was paralyzed by the stroke. Her doctors told her she would never walk again.

She not only walked again, she returned to exercising, and this summer she enrolled in paralegal classes at Clark College.

“I rehabbed really well,” Child said. “But I’m still using the cane in order to walk long distances.”

The four-legged cane is a necessity when Child is on campus. But, despite using the cane, Child has fallen twice. She was walking too fast to keep up with others and had a heavy bookbag slung over her shoulder. The brace on her left arm — used to stretch her paralyzed arm — meant she couldn’t use the arm to carry her bag or break her fall.

After the second fall, Child’s dad, Gregg Teaby of Camas, got an idea.

While she was walking at the hospital, the retired medical device engineer saw his daughter’s speed and stability improve dramatically when she ditched her cane and held onto a handrail in a long hallway.

Teaby told his daughter he was going to invent a motorized cane.

“And, sure enough, here it is,” said Child, of Vancouver.

For eight months, Teaby sat behind his computer and plugged away on his computer-aided design system and tinkered around in his shop to create a motorized version of the cane Child relied upon.

He’s now on the third version of the Celeste Power Cane, working to make the device lighter and more cost-effective.

“I kind of got carried away with this first one because engineers like to make things complex first and simpler after,” Teaby joked.

For the first cane, Teaby used a small motor to power a handmade system of pulleys and belts. He purchased two baskets used on walkers at a drug store and fastened them to the cane. That way, Teaby said, Child doesn’t have to carry her books. He added small headlights for use in the dark and bicycle grips to make the device easy to pick up and place in the car.

In the next version, Teaby replaced the motor with a power drill purchased at a home improvement store. Scooter wheels took the place of the pulleys and belts, and other off-the-shelf components replaced the handmade pieces.

Teaby is now completing the third version of the cane. The design is similar to the second version, but he’s using tread instead of wheels so the cane can be safely used on a variety of surfaces. He’s also replacing other components to make the device lighter.

The goal, Teaby said, is a final product that weighs 3 to 4 pounds and can carry 40 to 50 pounds.

Child has been sidelined by a recent surgery on her foot, so she hasn’t had a chance to try out the motorized cane on campus. She’s begun practicing with the device at home and hopes to use it on campus in the coming weeks.

“If it works the way it’s supposed to, it’s going to have a huge impact,” Child said.

“I really want to be independent of any devices,” she added. “But for big walking and carrying things, I need this. It’s important.”

After creating the cane, Teaby and Child began to wonder whether other disabled people could benefit from the cane. They plan to share the device at one of Child’s stroke support groups to gauge interest.

If the interest is there, Teaby is willing to donate his time to engineer the devices, but he would like to see other volunteers assemble the canes. He also hopes to find financial backers to fund the canes; he can’t absorb the cost himself. The newest version of the Celeste Power Cane cost Teaby about $750 to create.

“I’m not in this to make money,” he said. “I’m trying to help people.”

And if the creation doesn’t go any further, Teaby is OK with that, too. He already accomplished his original goal.

“This was designed with one specific person in mind,” he said.