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Exoskeleton for the West of Ireland

By   /  February 21, 2016  /  No Comments

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The Exoskeleton is a machine, which costs $ 160,000 (€150k). Is is battery operated and strapped onto the user over their clothes. The machine is then adjusted to the client’s height and width, which only takes five minutes. The Exoskeleton enables users with lower body weaknesses, or paralysis to stand and walk on level surfaces. With help from a physiotherapist, a wheelchair user will be able to use the Exoskeleton for rehabilitation. It can enhance blood flow, retain bone density, and help to maintain muscles.

Walking regularly will help keep the body in good condition, for able-bodied people and it is even more important for the disabled. The Exoskeleton is an amazing piece of technology and should be available to all wheelchair users. The Exoskeleton available in the West where others may be able to avail of it. I believe in community assessable services where people can interact with each other and be motivated.

I have been a wheelchair user for the last two decades, as a result of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). My life changed from being an active healthy woman to a lifestyle that reduced me to almost an invalid. I was shocked that the simplest things became a big problem. My body was unresponsive to my demands. The brain was unable to send messages to my body because the Mylan that protects the nerve endings was damaged. My neurosurgeon advised me to rest, have an easy life, and told me there was no cure for MS. This diagnosis was not what I wanted to hear. I had nine children to look after and one of them was only six-months-old.

It took some time to lick my wounds. I had bad days and I would miss my work colleagues. Acceptance and hope must coexist to be able to dream big dreams and help each other with technology. I was meant to live life to the fullest. I have learned how important it is to exercise and keep motivated. If I sat in a comfy chair, I would close my eyes and go to sleep, but put a computer or laptop in front of me and I am wound up. Once I am engaged in work, or study, I am motivated and able to achieve my goals. My greatest desire is to be independent. Now, for the first time in the history of assisted movement, there is a mobility option beyond the wheelchair, which is the bionic Exoskeleton suit.

I had the privilege of being able to use the Exoskeleton in a gym. The skeleton was strapped on over my clothes and the motors gave the high-tech equipment, and me, power. It worked in a similar fashion as my muscles used to. Sensors would send signals to a central computer, located in the backpack, as the nerves communicate with the brain. It is necessary to have a physical therapist spot the user to ensure safety and see that everything is working properly. The health benefits are enormous. We all take walking for granted, but for many people out there it is not an option.

Walking will greatly improve overall health and quality of life. Not being able to walk brings on a multitude of complications that can be life-threatening. Heart and lungs will not function properly, circulation is impaired, and bowel and bladder complications evolve. Research shows that the benefits of walking far exceed any other type of exercise. Yesterday’s vision is today s reality.

Restricted mobility leads to secondary complications, which impairs quality of life, and can be life- threatening. Millions of dollars have been spent advising the Irish public that an active lifestyle is imperative to health and wellness, yet people with movement disorders are excluded and denied support. Funding for people with long term disability seems to be at odds with other areas of medicine. Survivors of spinal cord injuries, stroke, and those who endure long-term neurological conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis deserve support.”

By Kathleen O’Connor

Images Courtesy of Ekso Bionics’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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