Helping the Paralyzed (re)Walk

Ransom Riggs

I don't know why I keep being surprised by amazing medical technology; it seems like at least once a week I stumble across some jaw-dropping breakthrough like the Exercise Pill -- but this really takes the cake. Developed by paralyzed Israeli medical tech genius Amit Goffer, ReWalk is a kind of exoskeleton -- similar in many ways to a crab's -- that allows formerly wheelchair-bound folk with control of their upper bodies to walk. Not by their own power, of course, but via a pair of exoskeletal robotic legs which sense changes in the center of gravity and upper body movements, and respond accordingly. I'm sure it takes a fair bit of getting used to, but this guy -- a former Israeli paratrooper named Radi Kaiof who's been paralyzed for the last twenty years -- makes it look downright easy:

Kaiof is selecting the activity he wants to do by pushing buttons on a wrist-mounted remote control; before he goes down stairs, he touches a button, and once he's finished ascending or descending them, he touches another button. Yeah, it's a little clunky right now -- but just imagine what this technology will look like in a few decades. Perhaps the paralyzed will be able to walk among us without anyone realizing it!

Aside from the lifestyle enhancements a device like this offers, there are also health benefits:

The company claims that by maintaining users upright on a daily basis, and exercising even paralysed limbs in the course of movement, the device can alleviate many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use. Kate Parkin, director of physical and occupational therapy at NYU Medical Center in the US said the potential benefits to the user were two-fold. "Physically, the body works differently when upright. You can challenge different muscles and allow full expansion of the lungs. Psychologically, it lets people live at the upright level and make eye contact." [Link]