8-year-old Skokie boy with cerebral palsy able to walk, move better thanks to technology

There is zero fear in the eyes of 8-year-old Caleb Magana as he suits up at Shriners Children's Chicago.

Sticky sensors cover his body — making the third-grader from Skokie feel a transformation. 

"They turned me into a robot," said Caleb.

Caleb and his mom, Kenia Sandoval, have been coming to Shriners since 2015 for his cerebral palsy — which affects how he walks.

"So when his brain tries to tell him he should do something, his brain tells it, but it doesn’t send the message all the way down to his legs," said Sandoval.

That is why he is covered with sensors, watched by infrared cameras, walking through the Motion Analysis Center.

All the data collected shows how the body moves, so doctors can help it move better.

"It allows us to assess the patient almost in three-dimensional. It allows us to monitor their progress, assess their needs and also understand how the surgeries helped them or not," said Dr. Haluk Altiok, an orthopedic surgeon at Shriners Children's.

On top of all that, this state-of-the-art motion capture camera system is famous.

"So, we use the same technology used in Hollywood to animate movies and video games to analyze how kids walk and do other movement," said Dr. Karen Kruger PhD, Director of Shriners Children's Chicago Motion Analysis Center. 

Kruger says this technology started in health care. Then, Hollywood realized they could use it to create special effects.

"The combination of Hollywood is really what drove the technology forward," said Kruger.


For this kid who loves movies, it's pretty cool to use the same tech they do. More important for his parents is how it has helped.

"Honestly, as a parent of a special needs child, when you don’t even know what’s happening, it’s really humbling to just be in a position where you just want him to be better, you just want him to be normal, right?" said Sandoval.

It has taken hard work, plenty of therapies — including surgery — but Dr. Altiok says the Motion Analysis Center is key to mapping out a treatment plan.

"It is certainly possible that we can see and manage patients with cerebral palsy, but motion analysis takes it to a different level," said Altiok.

For Caleb — yes, there is the cool robot thing, but now he can walk a mile, and do plenty more.

"I like playing volleyball, but sometimes I'm not at my best, but I think I'm kind of good at it," said Caleb.

The Motion Analysis Center sees about 300 kids a year — with a range of conditions, including spinal cord injuries, spinal bifida and scoliosis.