The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 26, 2012

Bionic suit to help Guthrie woman walk

Device offers new hope to local wheelchair users

OKLA. CITY — Twenty-two-year-old Mary Beth Davis of Guthrie was injured in a car accident on her way home from school in Stillwater in 2010. She was left paralyzed from the chest down. Like many millions of people with spinal cord injuries before her, the wheelchair was the only mobility option she could ever hope to have — until now.

This August, Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation will become one of the first 14 facilities in the world to offer the Ekso™ bionic suit to Mary Beth and other patients with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness, enabling them to stand and walk again. Developed by Ekso Bionics, the wearable robot was recently named a Top Ten invention by CNN and Wired and one of the Best Inventions by TIME.  

Sarah Anderson, 31, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being struck by a drunk driver, demonstrated Ekso for Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation physical therapists and patients.

As she watched Sarah strap Ekso over her clothing and walk, Davis was astonished by the technology and hopeful for the future.

“Getting to see the suit in person and witnessing someone like me stand and then walk, is a surreal moment,” Davis said. “Knowing that I will get the opportunity to train on the device makes it that much more exciting.”

The goal of Jim Thorpe is to offer patients the most advanced and effective technology available anywhere in the world, said Dr. Al Moorad, medical director of Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation.

“We will use the Ekso bionic suit for both inpatient and outpatient therapy,” Moorad said. “Our primary mission is to help our patients recover from their disabilities and return to living their lives to the fullest.”

With the patient providing the balance and proper body positioning, Ekso allows them to walk over ground with reciprocal gait. The physical therapist uses the control pad to program the desired walking parameters, such as step length and speed, as well as control when Ekso stands, sits and takes a step. The therapist has the ability to modify Ekso’s walking progression as the patient improves, and allow the patient to initiate the steps independently when they are able to balance comfortably.

“Integris Jim Thorpe Rehab is pioneering the bionic field in Oklahoma,” explained Eythor Bender, CEO of Ekso Bionics. “We have already developed a powerfully collaborative relationship with their team and look forward to seeing patients in Ekso up and walking in their state-of-the-art facilities.”

This version of Ekso is intended to be used in a medically supervised environment. Ekso Bionics plans to launch a personal version in early 2014. Mary Beth has more immediate plans. She hopes to walk across the stage at this year’s Integris Jim Thorpe Courage Awards gala Aug. 25.

 TO LEARN MORE about the a Bionic Exoskeleton, go to http://youtu.be/JH_PF3mfWNo.

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