MARLBORO (CBS) – A bionic device created in Marlboro is helping people who have been paralyzed, walk again.
Step by step, an exoskeleton called ReWalk is helping patients regain strength and this might only be the beginning.
It’s made a huge difference in Jeremy Romero’s life. He was told he had about a five-percent chance of ever walking again. To understand the gravity of his situation, you have to know how it started, six months earlier in New Mexico.
“In January of 2014 I was a police officer, I was in pursuit of two murder suspects in a stolen vehicle,” said Romero.
That’s the night his life changed forever. Those murder suspects crashed their car at 100 miles per hour, with Jeremy right on their tail. His patrol unit flipped twelve times. When Romero came to, he could tell from his partner’s expression that the situation was dire.
“He walked a couple of feet away from my car and fell to his knees and started to cry, and that was when I thought I was pretty much going to die at that point,” said Romero.
He was paralyzed from the waist down, and for the next month, he figured his life was effectively over.
“It broke me to my core, sitting in that hospital bed for two weeks, knowing that really my law enforcement career would probably be over,” said Romero.
That’s where ReWalk comes into play in Jeremy’s story.
“All six of your joints are mechanically controlled through the motors and gears and software that’s in each leg,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk.
The device works like this – the patient presses a button that tells the machine to stand up, when the person tilts forward, ReWalk starts walking.
“It’s a mechanical way of the human body and a machine working together to walk anywhere someone wants to go,” said Jasinski.
The psychological benefits were almost immediate for Jeremy, his wife, and his 13-year-old son. There are major physical benefits, as well, including the reduction in pressure sores and medications.
“I’ve regained my muscle mass. I have no nerve pain. My bowel and bladder is almost back to normal,” said Romero.
“They gain lean tissues, muscle tissue in their legs; they lose weight,” said Jasinski.
ReWalk is now expanding the technology to not just paraplegic patients but people with a disability in just one leg.
The company’s new device, the Restore, is the same concept, just boiled down.
“They wear this around their waist just like a belt and this has two motors in it; one that lifts the foot and one that propels the leg,” said Jasinski. “The sensor, there’s one on the healthy leg and one on the paralyzed leg, and it tells them to work in sync.”
Because this robot can tell how much force your disabled leg needs, it can gradually reduce aid and help you eventually walk out of the device. Restore is being developed in coordination with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.