Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Will Not Win Any Races Here But Up You Go

Bionic legs allow paralyzed man to walk again

When Hayden Allen suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorbike accident five years ago, doctors told him he’d never walk again.

But today a revolutionary product developed by a New Zealand biotech company has enabled him to do just that.

Mr Allen has been one of the first people in the world to use Rex, the Robotic Exoskeleton - a pair of robotic legs that supports and assists a person who usually uses a wheelchair.

It lets them stand, walk and go up and down steps and slopes.

‘I’ll never forget what it was like to see my feet walking under me the first time I used Rex,' said Mr Allen.

‘People say to me, "Look up when you’re walking" but I just can’t stop staring down at my feet moving.’

Rex users move from their chair into Rex, strap themselves in and control their movements using a joystick and control pad.

The equipment weighs 38kg (84lb) and is individually made for each user.

It is powered by a lightweight, long-life rechargeable battery.

Mr Allen, a mechanic, also spoke of how liberated he felt around his workshop as he now has far more access to machinery - and he can finally talk to people at eye level again.

Dr Richard Roxburgh, Auckland neurologist and medical adviser to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said: ‘For many of my patients, Rex represents the first time they’ve been able to stand up and walk for years.

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