Exoskeleton helping veterans walk again

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Veteran Randy Donayre can walk for the first time in two years with the help of an exoskeleton. (KTRK)

Veteran Randy Donayre can walk for the first time in two years with the help of an exoskeleton.

Rewalk Robotics created a system powered by both computer and battery. The exoskeleton contains motion sensors and motorized joints that respond to the upper and lower body as Donayre walks in a natural gate.

"It was an emotional roll coaster, being told you'll probably never walk again. After being active for so long, especially in the military, being physically fit, and then having that stripped away from you. Then all of a sudden you have the ability to walk again with the machine, with an exoskeleton. It felt great to be back on my feet," says Randy.

Something that seems to come out of science fiction is now real world.

Exoskeletons are playing a major role in paraplegic patients' lives as they allow the person to move as they once did.

While most of us would probably think walking is the major goal, the simple act of walking is providing these patients with other benefits.

"May help with their body fat composition. It may help ideally with bone health. We don't know those answers yet. But, those are areas we need to explore," says Dr. Doug Ota, Palo Alto Veterans Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Service Director.

The VA is playing a major role in finding appropriate patients for these devices as well as doing research to further refine the systems. KOMO reports that studies are underway to compare patients who use the exoskeletons to those who are in wheelchairs alone.

"There are things that people who use a wheel chair and who will be using this device can identify that is important and what is essential to them, that those of us not using the device would never think of," says Jenny Kiratli, the Spinal Cord Injury Research Director at the VA in Palo Alto.

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scienceveterandisabilityu.s. & world
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