R.J. Anderson, injured in 2012 in an accident that left him with quadriplegia, walked out the door of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) a few days ago with the help of an exoskeleton called the ReWalk.
ReWalk is a device powered hip and knee motion to enable people with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and walk. It provides mobility by integrating a wearable brace support, a computer-based control system and motion sensors. The system allows independent, controlled walking while mimicking the natural gait patterns of the legs.
After three years of rehab, hard work and determination, Anderson was given the life-changing—opportunity to participate in a study investigating the implications of exoskeleton use at home outside of a rehab environment. The project was made possible by an anonymous $70,000 donation, and being able to use the ReWalk at home has already made a dramatic difference in Anderson’s life. It “allowed me to just feel better, be better and improve my quality of life,” he said.
Through this experiment, research scientists at RIC are testing the potential long-term benefits devices such as the ReWalk could have on individuals with SCI. They hope they could help with preventing secondary conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, and urinary tract infection, according to RIC researcher Dr. Arun Jayraman.
In the meantime, Anderson continues to push himself. “I would like to get proficient in the device and be able to use it proficiently in the community, walk maybe to the store with it. To be able to stand at home, reach things in cabinets, possibly cook, just being back on my feet. The idea of that is amazing.” For now, he’s still taking it step-by-step.