Miracle brace lets veteran walk again
Paralyzed patients relish ‘simple things’
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 -
But yesterday at the AdvaMed 2012 conference, the 58-year-old Vietnam veteran pressed a button on a control device she wore on her wrist, and with the aid of a brace-like exoskeleton called the ReWalk and two crutches to help keep her balance, she stood up and set out on a stroll around the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center as onlookers gaped.
Invented by Amit Goffer, a quadriplegic who founded Argo in 2001, the ReWalk consists of a tilt sensor that notices when a person goes to get up, and a computer carried in a backpack that tells motors in the braces on the person’s legs to stand, walk, or climb or descend stairs, said CEO Larry Jasinski.
Hannigan is one of about 60 people worldwide to have used the ReWalk. She uses it for up to three hours three times a week at the Bronx VA Hospital, but she can’t take it with her because the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved it for use at home.
“The first time I stood up with it, I was crying so hard with happy tears, I actually had to sit back down,” she said. “The simple things other people take for granted, like getting myself a glass of water, I can now do with this. I don’t have to end up in a nursing home because my family can’t take care of me.”
The ReWalk sells for about $75,000 in Europe where the exoskeleton is approved for home use. Argo is considering leases for people whose insurance polices won’t cover the cost.
“Obviously, it will have to be refined, and the price brought down,” said Michael Ferriter, co-founder of the Boston chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. “But if you compare the price to the cost of care, it’s cheaper to get this equipment.”