Walking In Robotic Legs!

Yesterday I was rolling around Alcatraz in my wheelchair, today I entered the HQ of Ekso Bionics (www.eksobionics.com) to try and walk. I’m just south of San Francisco in the university town of Berkeley and I’m here to try out a robotic exoskeleton called Ekso.

As I sat with the lead PT (physiotherapist) we talked about my expectations. I knew the device had solid bars running down the outside of the legs and that motors at the hip and knees would power my legs. I was aware that I would have a computer and battery pack on my back to help co-ordinate the movement of the legs. And I knew that people with similar levels of injury to me had been able to use the device successfully. What I didn’t know and neither did the guys in the company, was how the blindness would impact my chances of success.

I was assessed, measured, tested, questioned and eventually I was strapped into the device. As I sat there listening to the instructions, with three PTs on standby and a safety harness attached somewhere high above my head I just couldn’t wait to get up and walk.

But I was scared. Not of the walking or chances of falling. Rather I was scared that my blindness would stop me from being part of something that I believe is one of my best chances of walking again. Maybe exercise-based recovery like my Project Walk or Standing Start training will allow me to walk again. Or maybe some revolutionary new treatment will emerge in the field of medicine. But I can’t help thinking that these robotic legs will be part of the overall solution and there I was sitting in a set of them with the chance of walking.

I leant forward onto a walking frame. One of the PTs hit the stand button and I rose out of my chair and stood. Everything that I had been doing in my hospital rehab programme with Amanda, my Project Walk and Standing Start training and my  daily exercise regime with Simon back in Dublin was important in this moment. My experiences of being unstable, of getting stronger and of being upright all combined in this single moment. It was incredible and I hadn’t even taken any steps yet.

Like we discussed in the briefing, I transferred my weight onto my left leg and then forward. “Step” said the PT, a button pushed and my right leg took a step. Then I moved the walking frame forward, shifted my weight onto my right. “Step” and my left took a step. Walker forward, weight shift, button pressed, step completed. Left, right, left, right, left, right, left.

I was up and walking. I had no idea of the time but the PTs were giving me my ratio of standing time to walking time and number of steps. As we passed the first hour it looked like I could start to be part of this exciting innovation in robotic technology. But the walking frame wasn’t the end game, crutches are next and so my walking experiment continues tomorrow. Photos and videos to follow!

14 Responses to “Walking In Robotic Legs!”

  1. 1 Julie in the dail January 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Great news,a big well done from all of us here,keep up the good workxxx

  2. 2 Bambi January 31, 2012 at 9:13 am

    This is totally amazing, thousands of hurrahs and lashings of ginger beer.

    • 3 Bambi January 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Been thinking about those sensors that are now in cars for lazy people who didn’t learn to park with a horse trailer hitched on the back of the car. The ones that beep when you get too close to a kerb. Attach those to the leg straps and you have sensors to tell you when you get close to steps, lampposts and so on. Raising a glass of adult ginger beer to you. So much love flying your way.

  3. 4 Gary January 31, 2012 at 9:22 am

    GREAT STUFF Mark !!!!! Keep going. Just when I needed a positive in my life, your life STEPS right in and delivers.

  4. 5 Graham January 31, 2012 at 10:36 am

    well done Mark!!! good to hear things are moving forward 🙂

  5. 6 simone george January 31, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Well done, my love. I can’t believe I am not with you. Love, love, love. xx

  6. 7 colm bambury January 31, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Truly AMAZING !!!! I truly hope this works

  7. 8 Carmel McNamee January 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Mark, this sounds fantastic, amazing and very exciting. Keep it up!

  8. 9 Craig & Bev Jackson January 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Brilliant Mark, when everything and everybody seems so negative is this depressing month of january your news and positivity has yet again given me the kick up the arse I need to stop whinging and moaning about trivial petty things. Hope this year brings you much more good news.

    Good luck mate, Craig & Bev

  9. 10 Dearbhaile Baldwin January 31, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Great to hear ur exciting news and look forward to the update. New year New start. As always i find ur news so up lifting and postive..

    Dearbhaile xx

  10. 11 Anne Chechile February 1, 2012 at 2:52 am

    We from the Ekso Bionics team were thrilled to have you and your father visit us in Berkeley. It was an pleasure meeting you both and thank you for providing us the opportunity to have you walk in Ekso. The human spirit is one that can not be contained and I know that you will achieve whatever you set your mind to. You are in inspiration to myself and our team and make all our hard work worth it!

    Anne Chechile- Ekso Bionics Director of Customer Relations

  11. 12 Mark February 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Great to read another uplifting update, I really admire your continuing positivity and enthusiasm ! I hope this solution really works for you, looking forward to reading more !

  12. 13 Cherill A Munday February 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Mark I heard you on Newstalk this morning and you are such an inspiration.. To use a well known quote…only in reverse.”A little step for mankind – but a giant step for you…..”
    Stay positive and you will reach your goal ….

  1. 1 A year in robotic legs – starting the analysis « Mark Pollock's Blog Trackback on February 5, 2013 at 10:42 pm

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