top of page

GyroStim Origin Story:
What was the Inspiration?

Inspired by necessity, GyroStim’s original purpose for helping one little girl
has evolved into helping countless people from all walks of life
and from around the world.

Inspiration

In 1997, Kevin and Rhonda Maher welcomed their new baby girl to the world. Mackenzie was born three months premature, eventually diagnosed with severe spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, and given a dire prognosis of a life burdened with severe disabilities.

 

Refusing to accept this as an inevitable outcome, the Mahers were determined to do everything they could to improve the quality of life for their daughter. Soon, the Maher family became fully invested and immersed in an intensive at-home therapy program.

At age 4-1/2, Mackenzie was struggling with so many physical challenges brought on by cerebral palsy; of particular concern was motor control and her inability to maintain balance. Mackenzie's therapists advised the Mahers that vestibular stimulation therapy in the form of chair spins, log rolls, and somersaults every day might help.

mackenzie-maher-age-3

Mackenzie age 3, propped up for the photo, before the first GyroStim prototype.

Motivation

 

In theory, vestibular stimulation therapy made sense: to improve balance and motor control, you must engage in activities that stimulate and challenge it. Unfortunately, the cerebral palsy rendered Mackenzie incapable of performing any of the exercises on her own, so the Mahers had to improvise and provide motion-induced stimulation for her. The family did their best, however, after several weeks of back-breaking therapy sessions involving tumbling and rolling Mackenzie around on the floor, the vestibular therapy had to be discontinued because it was just too difficult.

 

Realizing they had to find a safer and more efficient way for providing Mackenzie with vestibular stimulation, Kevin and Rhonda searched extensively for therapy equipment, but soon discovered no such device existed.

 

Kevin, with 20 years of experience working with robotic systems, became determined to engineer a solution. He envisioned a rotational chair made of plywood, a child's car seat, and various items of hardware. In his garage on a summer afternoon in 2002, he constructed a small rotational chair that made it easy and safe to administer effective motion-induced vestibular stimulation to Mackenzie. Unknown to him at that time, he had just invented the GyroStim. 

 

From the very first rotation, the new device was a success and Mackenzie loved it! In a short period of time, Mackenzie's balance began to improve. Even more surprisingly, Mackenzie began making unexpected gains in other areas such as gross and fine motor skills, trunk control, even her energy level, mood, and speech were improving at a faster rate. It became apparent that the motion-induced vestibular stimulation had triggered a cascade of additional gains well beyond the intended purpose of balance improvement.

"Necessity is the mother of invention."  ---Plato

While Mackenzie's daily physical and cognitive therapies were certainly beneficial, the addition of the motion-induced stimulation seemed to be the catalyst, the missing piece of the puzzle, that enabled rapid gains in her balance, motor control, and other abilities.

Amazed by the wide-ranging and rapid progress, Mackenzie's therapists strongly encouraged Kevin to continue development of his contraption and to make this powerful therapy available to many others who will surely benefit. Their affirmation was confirmation for Kevin that his life, once again, was about to go in a new direction. With that, he decided to take a leap of faith and put 100% effort towards developing his invention into a new medical device that could provide people like Mackenzie with safer and more effective therapies capable of producing better outcomes and a better quality of life.

Mackenzie 6

Mackenzie age 6, after lots of therapy with the early GyroStim prototypes.

Innovation

From 2004 through 2006, innovation and development continued at a rapid pace, culminating in a working prototype of the first ever computer-controlled, automated, pitch and yaw multi-axis rotational chair for clinical applications.

​In 2007, after all the kids in the neighborhood had a ride in the newly automated device (and loved it!), Kevin invited a few researchers from the United States Air Force Academy for a demo. From the first meeting the researchers had an immediate interest in the device's capabilities for producing automated and precisely controlled complex multi-axis rotational stimulation. Several meetings later, and with a list of USAFA specifications, Kevin's newly formed company, UltraThera Technologies, Inc., had its first sale. Not long after, the second system was purchased by the Mayo Clinic Aerospace Medical Vestibular Research Laboratory, which was soon followed by additional sales for clinical and research applications.

2006: The first automated prototype

101_1289_edited.png

2008: The first installation at USAFA

GyroStim practicum.jpg

2010: The first installation for clinical and research applications

MMA14.jpg

2015: The first installation for athletic performance applications

2020: The GyroStim G3 with the fully integrated patient transfer system.

GyroStim Headquarters Colorado

GyroStim Today

Since then, GyroStim technology and methodology have progressed along an evolutionary path driven by a passion to pursue advancements in clinical applications, human performance, and quality of life. 

 

Today, the GyroStim G4 has FDA-clearance and is designated by the FDA as a Breakthrough Medical Device. Systems are located in the US and 8 other countries around the world in health clinics, sports training centers, research labs, military facilities, and universities.

UltraThera headquarters is located at the foot of Pikes Peak in downtown Colorado Springs, CO, with research, development, and manufacturing located in Golden, CO.

Mackenzie Today

 

Mackenzie, the inspiration for GyroStim, has overcome many of the challenges associated with her original diagnosis and prognosis. In fact, she has completed her Master’s Degree in Psychological Science from the University of Denver and is pursuing her PhD in Applied Developmental Science at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO.

​​

She is tenacious, courageous, spirited, compassionate, and faithful to God.  She is dedicated to pursuing a life of scientific research: passionate about applying her personal experiences of growing up and living with cerebral palsy to discovering new and improved interventions that will one day improve the quality of life for others with disabilities.

 

Mackenzie-Maher-DU-graduate
mackenzie-maher-scuba
mackenzie-maher-skydive
mackenzie-maher-rock-climbing
bottom of page