The Sugarhouse Clinic now offers a new therapy involving the only robotic exoskeleton in the Intermountain West. ReWalk is a 40-pound wearable robot that uses sensors to analyze upper body motion triggering the robot legs to walk for the patient.
Steven Wilson was paralyzed six years ago in a car accident and is now on two feet. “It's the first piece of technology that I’ve ever been able to use that I can confidently walk,” said Wilson, who is now a ReWalk representative.
ReWalk is new to the University of Utah Hospital Rehabilitation Center, but doctors already have big plans for patients.
“Coming in this next year we're expecting some units to be available for use for home use,” said Dr. Jeffrey Rosenbluth, M.D. “Folks will come here and they'll train at the center and make sure they are safe with the device and then they'll be available for people to have on their own.”
That's something Heather Leighton can't wait for. “I would use it at the grocery store, cooking, cleaning, going dancing,” she said. The former dance major has been in a wheelchair for two years after a cliff diving accident in Echo Reservoir.
Leighton is just beginning to train with the robot and can notice a difference.
“A few weeks ago I had a little bit of a muscle contraction and I never had that before and I think it might be because of the ReWalk,” she said.
The device can take plenty of practice for paralysis patients to become proficient, but doctors say it's a breakthrough.
“This might be the biggest deal that we've seen in a long time,” said Dr. Rosenbluth. “There's a lot of talk about stem cells and patients recovering and getting back to walking on their own, but this technology is here today.”