Have you ever considered what it would be like to one day wake up and find that you could no longer walk or even stand on your own? For many, this event becomes a reality due to illness or injury that renders them paraplegic.
However, in what I can only describe as an amazing event, one paraplegic woman in the UK, who was paralyzed in 2007 after an injury from horseback riding, is now walking and standing on her own. The fact that she can now stand and move about is credited to what is being hailed as a major advancement in neurotechnology. No, it is not a surgery or the result of special physical therapy techniques, but rather due to a device that is being called an exosuit. From the above picture, one can easily see how the suit resembles an external skeleton. It is due to the design that wraps around the user that it has been given the nickname Exoskeleton by ReWalk.
Testing of the unit has shown it to be an incredible asset to those who otherwise would be confined to a bed or a wheelchair for the remainder of their lives. In fact, the suit was tested by the above mentioned woman who confirmed its value when she was able to successfully complete the London Marathon as part of a fundraising event.
This trial succeeded in giving hope to a quarter of a million wheelchair bound patients. While it is true that this event tested this woman’s ability and marked a major milestone for her personally, it also tested the theory that, if the suit could withstand the considerable amount of wear and tear placed on it, it was more than capable of standing up to everyday use.
For her it meant that she could now employ the use of the Exoskeleton at home as a part of her daily routine. To my knowledge, this is the first application where the suit is being used in a household, thus freeing the patient from continual confinement to a wheelchair.
The ReWalk, which is made by Argo Medical Technologies, LTD, basically consists of two leg braces, which are powered by motors, that act to mechanically move the legs forwards and backwards. The braces, coupled with a backpack that provides power to the unit, allows the wearer to merely tilt either forward or backward to control the movement of the braces attached to the legs.
In addition to commercial interest in the project, it now appears that it has caught the attention of the military. In fact, my understanding is that both the Israeli military and the United States military have expressed an interest in such a device. It even appears that they may use this one-of-a-kind invention as a prototype to create even more advanced units for people confined to wheelchairs. It is also possible that these advances could be examined to see if they would be compatible with the process of teaching those with spinal injuries how to walk or stand by themselves.
Of course, the fact that the concept of the device is new to the marketplace, it comes attached with a hefty price tag. This means that the luxury of owning such a suit will currently cost the wearer a whopping $72,000. However, when compared to the care and debilitation incurred by 24-hour confinement to a bed or wheelchair, it seems like a small price to pay. Then, too, one can only guess what future products and technologies will introduce that could reduce the cost of this particular suit once it is mass produced. In addition, unless it is the decision of the insurance companies, I seriously doubt that any compassionate individual would deny access to such a suit to a paraplegic, no matter what the cost.
In summary, this is definitely a major breakthrough for people who have only dreamed of walking again. I believe that, while the device will not be able to be used by everyone, most immobilized people could benefit from the new technology. I can also see how it would help in the rehabilitation of stroke victims, brain injury victims, or anyone else who needs to relearn how to stand or walk.
I am curious about your thoughts. Do you think that the estimated 250k paraplegic people worldwide can benefit from this device? If it were you or a member of your family, would you consider such a device a godsend, or would you think it was just another effort by doctors to make the next payment on their Porsche?
What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.
Source: Argo Medical Technologies, LTD
Source: Geek O System