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HURST -- Eight-year-old Connor Chaney flashed a gap toothed grin at his physical therapist Tuesday.

"Bring your toes up to my hand," she urges. "Try, try, try."

He tries to bring up his right foot. Nothing much happens.

Lindsay Luker straps a device about the size of a small cell phone to Connor's leg, and presses a button to activate it.

"Ouch!" Connor yelps.

She dials it back a little. It was more surprise than shock. A tickle.

And all the surprises that follow are good ones.

"Watch," Luker says.

His foot moves.

"Did you see that? That was your magic foot, dude," she tells him. "Are you ready to walk with it?"

What Luker calls Conner's "magic foot" comes from a stimulator called a Walkaide.

"It sends an electrical signal to the nerve in Connor's leg that is responsible for helping him pick his foot up," Luker explains.

She sets the stimulation level, then Connor sets the pace, as he takes off down a hallway at Cook Children's Medical Center Northeast in Hurst. The grin never fades. Laughter bounces off the walls.

It's a milestone. Connor hates the plastic brace he's been using to offset effects from cerebral palsy.

"Can I take it to school? Whoohoo!" he squeals. "No more brace!"

"It's a beautiful thing for a physical therapist to see," Lindsay Luker said. "You're helping his body move the way it's designed to move."

Connor has been walking, but his therapist and parents say the Walkaide helps to make it more normal.

"He'll be able to run and play with the other kids," Richard Chaney said. "[It will] just be great for him."

The device has been around a few years, but Cook's said it's the first pediatric hospital in Texas to use it.

"We've had 14 patients use the device successfully," Luker said. "I am seeing some amazing return for these kids."

In Connor's case, she had to get a $5,000 grant when insurance wouldn't cover it. A group called the 7th Avenue Group paid for it.

If they want to see how it's helping Connor Chaney, they'll have to keep up with him.

"I love my walking," Connor laughs, bolting across the room. With no brace.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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