Exoskeleton Helping Spinal Cord Injury Patients Walk Again
By Kimberly Foley. CREATED Jul 24, 2013
Omaha, NE -- New technology in Omaha is making progress in the medical field and changing the lives of people who are paralyzed.
It's called a robotic exoskeleton.
"The device actually stands the person up, so the person doesn't have to do anything besides pushing up as much as they can," said Michala Witas, the director of therapy services at QLI, a rehabilitation facility near 72nd Street & Sorensen Pkwy.
It's giving patients with spinal cord injuries a chance to stand on their own two feet and walk.
"I don't know how you explain the first time you walk in four years," said patient Taryn Schaaf.
She is taking steps she never thought she would take.
"It was definitely exciting," said Schaaf.
Four years ago, Schaaf was in an ATV accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
She spent six months in the hospital, and doctors led her to QLI.
This spring, everything changed.
"There's a button that helps stand me up," said Schaaf, while describing the exoskeleton. "I have a walker. I shift my weight back and forth, and then when I hit where I'm supposed to be, my leg will move forward."
Once patients like Schaaf are standing, the motors at the hips and the knees move their legs for them.
"We've heard our patients say it gives them some hope that technology is moving in the right direction, and there is a chance they may walk again," said Witas.
While Schaaf has adapted to her new life, and is proud of the new strides she is making, she said there's a lesson in her story for each and every one of us.
"If you have a chance to do something, do it," said Schaaf. "I mean you can't say, 'Oh, I'll do it in five years.' Do it now."
The exoskeleton is over $150,000. Home units are not available.
QLI has the only one in Nebraska.
In the coming weeks, the facility is getting software that will allow people with less severe injuries to do some of the work, which could help their bodies eventually, learn to do the work on their own.