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Robotic Exoskeleton Allows Paralyzed Patients To Walk Again

CBS New York (con't)

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PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For the first time, patients with spinal cord injuries have begun using a revolutionary device that helps them walk again at home.

As CBS News’ Marlie Hall reported Monday, the robotic exoskeleton known as ReWalk has given a retired U.S. Army sergeant from Long Island back her independence.

Retired Army Sgt. Theresa Hannigan was up and walking around her bedroom for the first time in three years, and could actually see out the window.

“Now, I can simply take it off the shelf,” she said.

An autoimmune disease left the Hannigan, 60, paralyzed. Now, she is the first person in the United States to be able to use the wearable robotic exoskeleton.

“There are so many things that I have missed by sitting in the wheelchair,” Hannigan said.

The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared the ReWalk from Argo Medical Technologies for personal use. The robot powers hip and knee motion to help paralyzed patients stand and walk.

Hannigan and 13 other patients have learned to use the system being studied at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.

“Almost all the subjects have lost fat mass,” said Dr. Ann M. Spungen of the exoskeletal-assisted walking program at the VA Medical Center. “We’ve have also had improvements in patient-reported pain and quality of life.”

“The biggest thing, though, would be giving me back my independence,” Hannigan said.

Hannigan’s partner and caregiver, Patricia Seagren, said it is overwhelming to see how happy Hannigan is doing everyday activities.

“Her dream of being able to use it in her home means everything. It’s very emotional,” Seagren said.

The device costs about $70,000. The FDA clearance requires that a companion is also trained on using the ReWalk at home.

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