A gunshot wound left Solomon Battle in a wheelchair, but thanks to technology, the 23-year-old Army veteran is able to walk again.
“It means a lot. It makes me feel like myself again. I can get up out of the chair, go outside, do what I like to do,” said Battle after demonstrating the Ekso Indego Therapy robotic exoskeleton April 26 at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center on 15th Street, where the spinal cord injury unit is located.
The exoskeleton is customizable and is FDA cleared. It fits around the waist and legs to help those paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and stroke to stand and walk. Also clinicians can provide individualized gait therapy using the device, according to a news release from the VA.
The device wasn’t originally designed to help injured veterans, according to Bill Vitzakovitch, business development manager for Ekso Bionics.
It originally began as a system to help soldiers carry “heavy loads while on duty. A few years later, we transitioned to creating medical devices that can help those with weakness or paralysis,” he said.
The exoskeleton is in use in 400 hospitals worldwide.
Battle’s demonstration of the device was part of a ceremony to highlight its donation through SoldierStrong, an organization whose mission is to provide “revolutionary technology, innovative advancements and educational opportunities to veterans to better their lives and the lives of their families,” according to its website.
The donation to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is the 30th such donation to Veterans Administration and other hospitals. Since 2001, the organization has provided more than “$5.4 million for revolutionary medical technologies to help our nation’s injured veterans,” according to Christina Stroback, SoldierStrong executive director.
Physical therapists say the exoskeleton is a gamechanger when it comes to treating veterans in the spinal cord unit.
“It’s an amazing tool,” said Matt Bounds, a physical therapist in the unit.
He walked behind Battle during the demonstration.
“When integrating this into treatment plans here at the VA, it will change the way we approach early rehabilitation and will be groundbreaking in helping get newlhy injured veterans on their feet within weeks of their injury which has been shown to be crucial for faster return to ambulation,” Bounds said.
He read a few comments by veterans who’d benefited from using the exoskeleton.
Edward Keaton said that it “enables me to get relief sitting all the time; it’s great for cardio and weight bearing on lower extremity and gives hopeful thoughts on the possible when it used to be impossible,” according to Bounds.
Like Keaton, Battle has experienced that hope.
“It brings life back to me. Everything that felt impossible is possible,” Battle said.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.