In today’s medical rehab tech overview we share a quick introduction to the Rewalk exoskeleton and some short stories from some users.
This article was written by the non-profit team from What’s Worked, who help share the equipment and stories of people who have found a way back to work or hobbies after life altering injuries, illnesses or chronic pain.
THE TECH: Described as light and wearable, the ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton works using battery-powered hip and knee motors to drive the user’s ambulatory motion. A minimal movement in the upper body directs the Exoskeleton engine to move the users’ legs in a walking pattern.
The ReWalk is aimed at assisting people with paraplegia or paresis after suffering a spinal cord injury. The user needs to have hand, arm and shoulder function as the equipment requires the use of crutches to give stability. The user has to be able to tolerate upright positioning for a prolonged period. In addition, healthy bone density is required, as is a good range of flex in the hip, knee and ankle joints.
The ReWalk Exoskeleton is best suited for those with a height of between 1.6m and 1.9m, with a maximum weight of 100kg.
Lastly, the manufacturer does not recommend the equipment’s use without the presence of a companion, in order to decrease the risk of injury and to give assistance should it be needed. The new user should also try to bring the companion along to any training sessions.
Due to the way in which it engages the core, users sometimes find that it delivers a level of activity that helps with pain management and a feeling of renewed control over their life.
US veteran Gene says ‘before I was just succumbing to my disability; now I’m calling the shots… It’s not a disability, it’s a different ability, because of the ReWalker’.
Lucy’s Story: Paralysed following a spinal cord injury, UK user Lucy encountered many consequent difficulties with circulation and digestion. She often used to find that the lack of movement possible resulted in very cold, blue-tinged legs. Following her first use of an Exoskeleton, Lucy was pleased to note that her legs were warmer and a much happier shade of pink. The gastroparesis she was experiencing has eased a good deal too, and bladder and bowel function has improved.
A huge benefit to Lucy is in the area of interaction. She values the ability that the Exoskeleton has given her to resume her much-loved walks with friends and family without having ‘to crane your neck to look up at people… to be able to stand up, look them in the eye at normal height, just engaging… is really important to me’.
John’s Story: Tennessee Operations Analyst John became paralysed over 20 years ago, when he was injured in a mountain bike rice. His competitive spirit came into play during his recovery and he became involved in wheelchair sports and work, which he found rewarding but he was missing just being able to walk. Using ReWalk’s technology enabled him to achieve this long-treasured goal.
John explains the resulting change like this: ‘It’s like driving through the mountains and you know the scenery is beautiful but you can’t see them because you’re focused on driving. That’s what it was like when I was standing up for the first time. Still an incredible experience’
John was immediately overwhelmed by the experience of using the equipment: ‘It was really emotional for me being able to stand up next to my dad’. He looks forward to using the Exoskeleton for the physical and psychological health benefits it brings, alternating between it and his wheelchair.
Derek’s Story: Former Marine Ranger Captain Derek Herrera was paralysed from the chest down as a result of a sniper attack in Afghanistan in 2012. Following extensive rehab work, Derek was introduced to ReWalk assistive technology, and Exoskeleton training ensued.
The veteran went on to reveal his prowess with the equipment by walking across the stage at a Stand Up for Heroes event, to an ecstatic reception from a clearly moved audience. Derek went on to talk about how it was for him when he was able to stand up in front of his four-year old twin sons for the first time in their lives.
‘When I stood and heard Hudson say to me how tall I was and I could take a step and he was coaching me along it really made me understand his perception of me and how he didn’t see my paralysis as a limitation.’ Derek goes on to say ‘I hope you question any perceived limitations you may be encountering and make 2022 an epic year.’