In June 2014, the FDA approved ReWalk™, a revolutionary new technology for use at home and in the community, that allows individuals with spinal cord injury to stand and walk. A representative from ReWalk Robotics visited Bacharach in early September to introduce our physical and occupational therapy teams to the newly approved wearable exoskeleton. Today, Bacharach is one of few facilities in the region to offer this amazing new device and enable paralyzed patients to walk again.
ReWalk was developed by Dr. Amit Goffer, an Israeli inventor who became a quadriplegic after an ATV accident in 1997. He developed the ReWalk based on his own experience using mobility devices. Providing powered hip and knee motion, the ReWalk enables individuals with spinal cord injury to stand upright and walk. Patients wear a brace support that is individually fit to their body and a backpack with a computerized control system and motion sensors.
In addition to the user’s ability to stand and walk independently, clinical studies of the ReWalk rehabilitation system show significant health benefits on both a physiological and psychological level. The data indicates potential improvements in cardiovascular health, loss of fat tissue, building of lean muscle mass, and improved bowel function. According to Becky McGill, physical therapist and coordinator of the spinal cord injury program at Bacharach, “There are numerous physical and psychological benefits including increased endurance and even the potential to improve nerve function.”
Josh Vila 24, was in a car accident two years ago that shattered his back and left him paralyzed from the chest down. He completed both inpatient and outpatient physical therapy at Bacharach and was the first person at Bacharach to try the ReWalk, providing a demonstration for staff. Josh found the device easy to use and is hoping to become a representative for the company someday. He said, “Believe it or not, as soon as I put it on (with the help of the Bacharach team), I was able to take a few steps. Walking longer distances requires that you develop the proper form and build up your strength.”
On his third training session, Josh made his first turn and continually kept walking. He shared, “It definitely is an amazing device. I have gotten up and stood before using leg braces, but with the ReWalk I am actually able to walk because of the increased mobility it provides.” His goal is to raise the money or work with his insurance company to purchase his own ReWalk. He explained, “It would make my life at home and at work a lot easier.”
Another patient, 23-year-old Becca Guilbeaux, was also able to walk using the ReWalk exoskeleton – for the first time since becoming paralyzed in a car accident at age 19. She said, “It is an amazing piece of technology. It was so great to be able to get up and just walk and have that normal feeling. It only took a few minutes to get used to it.” Becca foresees the ReWalk evolving in a the way cell phones did, becoming slimmer and more narrow so that someday, she might be able to wear it under her clothes.
Both Becca and Josh were cheered on by family, friends and Bacharach therapists and staff members as they walked using the ReWalk. According to Becky, who helped both patients use the technology, “Everybody there was blown away. ReWalk truly has the ability to change people’s lives.”
Patients who receive a prescription from their doctor can make an appointment for an evaluation to use the ReWalk at Bacharach. For more information, contact: Becky McGill at 609-652-7000 x 5411.