Modern day miracle

March 31, 2014 by Michelle Coleman
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To see a wheelchair-bound individual stand up and walk independently is an incredible experience, usually possible only in the world of sci-fi entertainment.

Pic: Michelle Coleman

Radi Kauf Pic: Michelle Coleman

Yet this was exactly the experience afforded those who attended a Zionist Council of Victoria and Israel Trade Commission hosted breakfast presentation at Beth Weizmann Community Centre on Monday.

The breakfast was an opportunity for Israel-based Argo Medical Technologies to showcase their ReWalk invention, which enables individuals with lower spinal cord injuries, such as paraplegics, to stand, walk and even climb stairs independently.

The ReWalk exoskeleton is a wearable, motor-driven robotic device that is worn outside the clothing. The bionic suit allows the user to walk by detecting shifts within their sense of balance, and then moves the user’s legs in a natural gait.

Radi Kauf, a former IDF soldier who was paralysed during a military operation, astounded guests when he adorned the device, stood up from his wheelchair and walked across the stage with only crutches for support. Kauf told the audience how ReWalk had changed his life, and recalled how his three-year-old daughter – who had never seen him out of his wheelchair – was amazed when she saw him standing for the first time, remarking, “daddy, you’re so tall!”

Group

Radi Kauf with community members Pic: Steve Yarrow

However, Argo Medical Technologies representatives were keen to emphasise that ReWalk has not only had tremendous impact on the social lives of paraplegics. Because users follow a normal gait pattern, clinical trials have demonstrated great medical benefits: an increase in muscle mass, a decrease in body fat and an improvement in many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use such as urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive problems.

Although at $AUD85,000 the device does not come cheap, its creators argue that this should be viewed in the context of the approximately $30,000 per year reduction in the costs of medications and hospital based therapies that ReWalk brings its users.

ReWalk was developed by Dr Amit Goff, himself wheelchair bound after being injured as a soldier in Lebanon. Sadly, he is unable to use his own device as it works only for those with paraplegia, and not quadriplegia.

At present there are more than 400 versions of the ReWalk device in use both in rehabilitation settings and for personal use world-wide. The company is currently meeting with Australian distributors in the hope of making the device available here later this year.

Comments

One Response to “Modern day miracle”
  1. Julie CLark says:

    This is a wonderful thing … it gives people a new lease of life … once they know how to use it … it would be good for anyone that has a back injury and to get them to walk again

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