Last week, a fifteen year old boy at my daughter’s high school was hit by a car. The shock of the accident reverberated throughout the Upper West Side community and made me think of the frailty of mankind, especially when hit with head and neck injuries. Life can change on a dime.
The confinement of a wheelchair is well known to Dr. Amit Goffer, CEO of Argo Medical Technologies. Goffer a paraplegic himself, is the inventor of ReWalk an amazing robotic skeleton that enables people with lower-limb paralysis to walk again (Goffer is unable to use his invention as his paralysis affects his upper body as well). Argo Medica, based in Israel has been in trials with ReWalk for the past 5 years, now it is available in the United States. According to Goffer, “By providing a realistic alternative to the wheelchair, ReWalk is actually the first real step forward in mobility assistance in almost 100 years.”
The ReWalk System is now available at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey for the cost of $85,000. Using micro-computers and light weight sensors paralyzed individuals are aided with a robotic exoskeleton that propels them out of wheel chairs and in the streets. As demonstrated, 37-year-old Agnes Fejerdy can climb stairs, go in and out of the car, use a normal reform and walk even at a city’s pace down the street. Probably the biggest change says Fejerdy is being able to “go out to the streets and talk with the people face to face… and not from the wheel chair.”
Last night, President Obama said our soldiers will be returning home from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the War on Terror has brought a rise in the paraplegic population. ReWalk has now been approved by the FDA for testing at the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development National Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury at the James J Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY. Argo’s breakthroughs illustrate that robots are more than sic-fi movies or battle drones, but practical life aids that improve the lives of our heroes, neighbors and even our kids.