Hi. My name is Eric. This is my journey after being paralyzed in an off-road motorcycle accident on January 22, 2011. I suffered a fractured T12 resulting in a ASIA A Complete spinal cord injury. I have no sensation or motor function from my waist down and am in a wheelchair. My wife, two young daughters, family and friends have been supporting me in this journey.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

eLEGS by Berkeley Bionics (now Ekso by Ekso Bionics)

Right after I returned home from Lake Tahoe, I had a chance to try out eLEGS from Berkeley Bionics.  eLEGS is an intelligent, bionic exoskeleton that actually allows wheelchair users to stand and walk again.  Berkeley Bionics was conducting a clinical trial at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center where participants were able to try out the bionic exoskeleton for 6 weeks.  I was so excited when I received a phone call asking me if I wanted to participate in the clinical trial.

The goal for the first week was to get the exoskeleton adjusted to fit my body and to walk for 20 minutes with a walker.  It took about 30-45 minutes to get me all dialed into the exoskeleton for the first time.  The therapists gave me the walker and then asked if I was ready.  "Oh yeah, I'm ready."  And with the push of a button, the exoskeleton turned on and stood me up.  I looked around the room in amazement.  I was actually standing up again.  Now it was time to take my first steps.  The eLEGS were controlled by a pendant that the therapist held in their hands.  When I had my body in the correct position, they would push a button and I would take a step.  Then I had to move the walker forward and with a push of the button, I would take another step.  Then another and another and another.  I could not believe it, I was actually walking for the first time since my accident.  I walked for about 20 minutes the first session.  I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

On the second week, it only took about 10 minutes for the therapist to adjust the exoskeleton and to put it on me.  I got up and did 2 laps around the rehab facility with the walker.  After doing so well, they decided to let me try the forearm crutches.  These seemed easier to use than the walker, but were less stable.  After a few more laps, I had a good rhythm going and walked for a little more than 30 minutes. On the third week, I walked for 50 minutes.  On the remaining three sessions, the therapists switched the controls over to me.  So whenever I would swing a forearm crutch forward and place it on the ground, the opposite leg would step.  I got the hang of it really fast and I was having fun.  I was in total control now.  I had such a good time walking that I did not keep track of time.  Before I knew it, I had walked for 60 minutes and had to stop.  I also walked for 60 minutes on the remaining two sessions.

By the time I got around to writing about eLEGS, Berkeley Bionics has changed their name to Ekso Bionics and eLEGS is now being called Ekso.  You can find out more information at Ekso Bionics.

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