If you had a chance to regain your ability to walk, would you take it?
Thanks to an Israeli graduate of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, this question could be reality for certain paraplegics. Technion graduate and quadriplegic scientist Dr. Amit Goffer of Yokneam-based Argo Medical Technologies has created an innovative — almost miraculous — invention called the “ReWalk.”
Made famous via cameos on a December 2010 episode of the American TV series “Glee” as well the 2012 London Marathon, Goffer’s invention looks a bit like a bionic suit. According to Time Magazine, the device “relies on sensors that anticipate shifts in the user’s balance and translates them in movements like walking and standing.”
“ReWalk users find their lives impacted in many significant ways,” the product’s website states. Through use of the device, ReWalk users may be able to “[overcome] some of the practical challenges associated with a wheel chair,” “[increase] exercise,” and enhance life connections more generally by being able once again to “address people at eye level, engage in conversa-tions more directly and even the ability to hug standing up.”
Billing itself as the “first commercially viable upright system,” the ReWalk is relatively lightweight at 44 pounds, and is able to move the users’ legs in a natural gait. “By restoring vertical mobility ReWalk delivers benefits in overall health, social interaction, and achieving economical healthcare,” the website notes.
A personal version of the ReWalk is already available in Europe, but is still waiting authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Americans can access the bionic suit in an-other way however — the ReWalk Rehab 2.0 has been approved by the FDA for clinical settings and can be found so far in more than 22 rehab facilities around the country.
For example, the ReWalk is being used at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to Reuters, where it is used by medical professionals such as Allan Kozlowksi, assistant professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at Icahn.
Another one of the users who has benefitted so far from the invention is Captain Derek Herrera, an active-duty Marine Special Operations Officer paralyzed on June 14th 2012 when he was shot in the spine while conducting combat operations in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
On his website, Herrera details how the ReWalk has changed his life.
“Recently, with the help of the MARSOC Foundation and many other individuals, I was able to obtain the Argo ReWalk ExoSkeleton for use at my office under the supervision of my Physical Therapist,” Herrera writes. “I have been training with the device since November of 2013. I am very passionate about this technology and cannot overstate the potential it has to positively im-pact the lives of other paraplegics in the future.”