Making Strides for Paralyzed Veterans
Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital is using cutting edge technology to help injured veterans rehabilitate.
One of the devices, at the Spinal Cord Injury Center, helping paralyzed veterans stand and walk again is the Exoskeleton.
Using a computer backpack, robotic leg braces and a walker, veteran Josh Baker demonstrated the Exoskeleton during the April 2014 ceremonial opening of Haley’s new Polytrauma Center.
Baker said it didn’t require much effort on his part.
“If you get a good rhythm and you’re good upright, you can actually walk right along and the machine simulates it,” Baker said.
His VA therapists were impressed by how quickly Baker advanced after just two weeks of practice. Baker was on the device's most advanced setting, where the device takes automatic steps once it senses the veteran’s foot is in the correct position.
One of the features of the Exoskeleton is that it can be programmed with each individual’s weight, height and gait which individualizes the simulated walking, therapists said.
For the first time since his motorcycle accident in November 2013, Baker said the ability to walk with the Exoskeleton gave him “a jubilation feeling.”
Witnessing their wheelchair-bound son walk again that day at Haley was emotional for his parents Laurie and Robert Baker. Laurie Baker said anything that makes her son feel better makes her feel better. His father agreed.
“It was incredible,” Robert Baker said. “That’s the first time I got to see him walk since November and it just means so much.”
He said the device also will help other veterans living with disabilities.
“It’s going to help so many other servicemen to just give them the hope that they can stand again when they’re just stuck in a wheelchair,” said Robert Baker. “It’s just a blessing.”
Haley is one of two Ekso Bionic Centers in Florida. The other is located at the University of Miami Project.