Has medical technology really come that far? Is it really the case that those who are paralyzed from the waist down are going to be able to actually walk? Apparently so. This has been the case with Stephanie Sablan who was injured in a car accident 4 months ago and is now walking. Aided by the eLEGS exoskeleton Sablan was able to walk. In layman’s terms, the exoskeleton is a battery-powered pair of robotic legs in a backpack. Due to this incredible technological device, Sablan walked around a room in California at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. It’s not all about technology though. Salblan had to work hard. Her initial walking was aided by a physical therapist but it only took until the fourth session that she could move “on her own using crutches containing special sensors.”
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So how does this actually work? The patient has to put the tool – weighing in at 45 lbs – on their legs and shoulders with Velcro straps. Given that the machine is so heavy though, wouldn’t that be problematic for the paralyzed patient? No, since the battery power is able to support the weight, thus not pressuring the individual. Moving the right hand forward with crutches renders a reaction from the device to move the left leg with the motors and then vice versa on the other side. Sablan commented, “my first steps were pretty incredible….I definitely had to hold back my tears. It filled that void that was taken away from me.” The hope of course is that ultimately the patient will no longer need the wheelchair and be able to “jump into the eLEGS and go take a shower.” That is the hope of the device manufacturers too. It was made at the Rehabilitation Research at the Valley Medical Center. There is still a way to go and researchers are currently looking into how long patients are able to stand and walk around using the device and the plan is to “test it on up to 10 people by the end of the year.”