Click HERE for more information on the ReWalk device.
Inspiration. That's what one robotic device is providing for hundreds of thousands of wheelchair bound people worldwide.
People who doctor's told they'd never walk again.
Agnes Fejerdy is proof to paraplegics it's possible.
Fejerdy says, "I can go anywhere I want to, standing and walking, not just with a wheelchair."
Fejerdy demonstrated how the ReWalk works on Tuesday at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. A car crash seven years ago left her paralyzed from the waist down. A wheelchair was Fejerdy's only option, until she read on the Internet about a clinical trial for ReWalk. Fejerdy applied, and had a good enough bone density to qualify, now she's the "walking" spokesperson for the computer operated robotic device.
She says, "It's not hard to learn, just a lot of effort, because you need to use your arms and find your balance point."
Argo Medical Technologies designed the ReWalk device. Pete Escallier is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales. He tells 10/11, "It has a computer and it has a battery in the backpack that weighs about four pounds. It also has four different joints, each of the joints have a motor, that's run by software, so the physical therapist, they program the device using a computer to walk at a certain speed.
He adds, "It has the patient ambulate walking forward, they can stand, they can sit, and they can go up stairs and down stairs. It's amazing, it's very compelling when you see a patient go from a wheelchair to this device."
Mary Reece is an intern at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and saw ReWalk for the first time in person Tuesday. She was so overwhelmed it made the hair on her neck stand-up.
She says, "It was just hope and 'Oh, my gosh, maybe I can do that someday.'"
Mary's biggest hope, one day she can stand like Fejerdy and look someone in the eye again.
"Take part in a conversation at face level, not having to be assertive, people are integrative and it's great, but from a wheelchair level, you do have to be a little bit more assertive to get someone's attention."
Fejerdy adds, "When we walk, the best part is seeing people's eyes, so it's not just an emotional thing, it's something that comes with the human nature, I think."
Aside from emotional benefits, the ReWalk can also impact a person's health.
Escallier says, "Some of those have been proven in other standing techniques with regard to respiration, bowel and bladder improvement."
Fejerdy says, "If I use the device 2 or 3 times a week, it lowers my pain, it's taking away from the pain.
Reporter: "So you don't need the surgery anymore?"
Fejerdy responds, "I don't need the surgery anymore, I don't need the neuro-stimulator anymore, that's a big thing."
The rewalk was developed in Israel and Escallier says this rehabilitative unit is approved by the FDA for use in physical therapy.
Escallier hopes to get the device at center's of excellence across the country like Madonna. He says the cost for Madonna to buy two of these rehabilitation units is around $200,000. The devices would come in sizes adjustable to both tall and short people.
Currently the ReWalk is only being used at two hospitals in the US, one in Philadelphia and the other New York City.
Argo Medical Technologies is also working with the hospital in New York City to develop an in home ReWalk unit. Escallier says this device would be lighter, more mobile and the computer/battery combo would no longer be in a backpack form. Escallier says that model will hopefully be available in mid-2012. He adds, the in-home model is not currently approved by the FDA and is would not be covered by insurance. Escallier says the cost of the portable in-home model would range from $25,000 to $50,000.
For more information on the ReWalk device, click on the link to the left.