Edmonton

Robotic exoskeleton allows paraplegics to walk again

Denny Ross was in a serious car crash in 2010 that left him paralyzed. He thought he would never walk again. But now, thanks to a robotic exoskeleton, he can.

The machine, the second of its kind in Canada, is being used in a pilot study at the U of A

A robotic exoskeleton that allows some people with spinal cord injuries to walk upright is being used in Edmonton. 2:03

After a serious car crash in 2010 left Denny Ross paralyzed, he thought he would never walk again.

But now, thanks to a robotic exoskeleton, he can.

“It’s just amazing to be able to walk,” Ross said. “I thought four years ago that this would never happen again, that’s for sure.”

The ReWalk Robotics machine is an exoskeleton that allows some people with spinal cord injuries to walk upright. It was designed by a paraplegic inventor, Dr. Amit Goffer, who was seeking a better solution to life in a wheelchair. 

The machine is the second of it’s kind in Canada and is currently being used in a pilot study at the University of Alberta.

The exoskeleton was purchased by the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Centre Society. Already, the technology is making a difference.

“This has allowed them to walk with less effort and for much longer,” said Jaynie Yang, a professor of physical therapy. “It’s a really important advance.”

Ross says using the technology is not as easy as it looks.

“The first time we used it and I stood up, I was pretty wobbly,” he said. “It actually took me quite a while to find my balance, before I could find my groove and away we went.”

Louise Miller, president of the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Centre Society, says the exoskelton doesn't only restore mobility, it can have a big impact on the health of the user. 

“Not only the walking and the exercise, the impact on his body, less drugs and the rest of it — he’s now Denny, the way he was.”

The pilot project runs for a year, but researchers are hoping to get additional funding for four years.