At the national rehabilitation hospital, Dun Laoighre I was introduced for the first time to the Ekso GT, a robotic exoskeleton. This event took almost two years after acquiring a spinal cord injury and losing all sensation and voluntary movement from below my chest. The Ekso GT was a new lifeline for me, offering possibilities and hope. It signalled moving forward with my life, a new chapter opening of a difficult journey after acquiring a c6/c7 spinal cord injury in 2013. This is the first exoskeleton to be approved by the FDA for those recovering from a stroke. It is also approved for use with individuals with spinal cord injury.
With help from the physiotherapists, fittings can take quit abit of effort requiring patience and time. It takes between five and ten minutes for myself to be fitted into this exoskeleton suit and then to be strapped up and crutches fitted in conjunction with my active hands gripping gloves. But even after that there is another very important component; the programming which can take some adjustment to step size, speed, hip movement. etc. What happens next is quit remarkable to experience first hand, walking again. With alot of help no doubt but still walking once more. Ths is activated upon the user completing weight shift with the resultant initiation of forward leg movement.
But how can a full time manual wheelchair user with extreme mobility and/or balance impairment?
GT is a powered hip-knee medical rehabilitation exoskeleton developed by Ekso
Bionics. It allows for a number of consistent steps by conducting the
appropriate weight shift movement. The ability for the device to
recalculate assistance based on gait data gathered after each step makes for a
superior rehabilitation experience. The determination I have following years of
kickboxing at a national and international level has made me continue my rehab
as much as I possibly can.
Once the body has been stabilized and the individual has been rehabilitated to his or her fullest potential, establishing a wellness routine can be beneficial to staying well and maintaining functional capacity. This overall approach encompasses many issues, including exercise. A well-rounded exercise program should include components that promote fitness and help to maintain functional independence. The Ekso has been huge to enable me to get up and get my full body workout, it’s amazing.
The Ekso is compatible for use in a therapeutic environment by patients with mobility impairment due to spinal cord injury up to C7 complete in Ireland.
Future progression envision Ekso components of an exercise program to be incorporated into a home program. At best an inclusive health facility equipped with specialist neurological equipment allowing Anyone with a disability to train is something to aim for. This can improve their current level of physical and mental health by targeting mobility, strength and physical fitness regardless of their current baseline.
Now I’m moving forward to the next phase of my life with new courage and hope.