The Exoskeleton, a computer-controlled battery driven, helps paralyzed patients walk again.
This breakthrough technology helped Manny Maldonado, a 34-year-old patient at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, walk and smile again. Exoskeleton was invented by the military and was used by soldiers to carry heavy weights long distances. It was later adapted for the paralyzed patients, being controlled by the arms movement.
The real life ‘Iron Man’ functions with computer chips, motors, batteries and a hand-operated console. Currently the gadget is available at 30 hospitals in the US and the lightest model, under 30 pounds, can be found at Vanderbilt University.
“It feels great,” said Manny Maldonado. “Number one, I don’t have to keep looking up at people. I’m back at eye level with them…It feels a lot better to breathe in. I began to sleep better at night, (the) spasms are decreased, (and I have) better bladder control…It’s just a feeling of joy. You’re back on your feet.”
The one in charge of the exoskeleton program, is Dr. Kristan Ragnarrson, chairman of Rehabilitation Medicine at Mount Sinai. According to Ragnarrson the machinery is good for the muscles, bones, skin, circulation and it also decreases the risk of blood clots and wounds, eclipsing years of research on nerve growth and chemicals. Unfortunately, the device costs around $140,000 for a single unit, so only few patients will benefit from this new and life changing technology.
“I’ve been treating people with spinal cord injury for over 40 years,” Ragnarsson said. “In the absence of a cure, I’ve been using technological devices to help them to gain mobility and to be able to better care for themselves. Now, we have this electrically powered robot where they actually can go distances without exhausting themselves. I think this is a new beginning.”