Paraplegics will soon have the ability to rise out of their wheelchairs and walk among the rest of us.
With decades of research finally paying off, scientists have finally created a way for paraplegics to walk again. Trials have been commencing for the last few years in hospitals and research centers, but one lucky woman has become the first in the world to take the new technology home. Claire Lomas, the 32-year-old British mom, paralyzed from the chest down following a 2007 horseback riding accident, couldn’t be more enthusiastic. She is already taking part in marathons and showing off her newly returned mobility. While there are many companies making similar units, ReWalk by Argo Medical Technologies is leading the pack as the first available for home use.
“I am very excited to take the ReWalk home and incorporate it in my daily life, Lomas says enthusiastically. “With the help of the ReWalk I am able to stand, walk, talk to my friends and family eye-to-eye, and exercise in ways that I have not been able to since my injury.”
This technology is in the form of a suit and a control unit worn on the wrist. The wrist unit controls what the wearer wants to do, whether to stand, sit, walk, or climb and descend stairs. The suit works by predicting the user’s step by sensing the shifts of balance in the lower back. A series of motors at the hips and knees move the legs in a near-natural gait, allowing the patient to walk.
Currently in the USA, the suit is only approved for testing and trials. It is, however, available for purchase throughout areas of Europe and the Middle East, at a cost of about $71,000. To qualify for trials, the patient must have enough strength to hold themselves up with crutches. Upper body strength is important, as the crutches can prevent safety risks in the event of a misstep or malfunction. While take-home devices are not available yet in the USA, patients who show promise during the testing phases may be the first Americans to receive one when it ultimately becomes approved.