Testing on a the Indego walking-assist devise makes great strides
When actor Christopher Reeve suffered a horse-riding accident in 1995 he was left a paraplegic with no hope of ever walking again. Things have changed dramatically since then.
Several companies today are pushing technology into new boundaries and are not only bringing hope to people’s lives, but movement to their feet.
They’re called “exoskeletons”: robotic suits that, with crutches, let paraplegics stand, walk, and even climb stairs.
Dr. Michael Goldfarb is an engineer at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and is head of their exoskeleton project. He’s working with a company named Parker Hannafin on testing and clinical trials with the plan to get a consumer product called Indego on the market next year.
Aiden Gormey from Parker Hannafin finds his job enormously rewarding. He says nothing compares to knowing you’ve played a role in helping someone who was once confined to a wheelchair to stand up and look you in the eyes.
The Indego exoskeleton is attached at the waist and is strapped onto the legs. Dr. Goldfarb explains that electric motors at the joints powered by lithium batteries are controlled by micro chips, and likens it to a Segwey with legs, anticipating by leaning where a person wants to move.
Brain Shaffer, paralyzed since 2010, is using the Indego, and says his kids call him Ironman. He simply says, “It’s unbelievable to stand up again.
Dr. Robert Grossman, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Methodist Hospital, is also working with researchers at the University of Houston on exoskeleton technology. Unlike the Indego, which requires a patient have use of their arms and upper body, the system Dr. Goodman’s team is developing is controlled by brain waves.
There are up to 237,000 patients in the US suffering from severe spinal injuries.