Rancho to demonstrate robot that may help paralyzed patients walk again

DOWNEY - Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center on Monday will demonstrate its new exoskeleton robot that will enable many of the world-renowned hospital's patients with lower-limb paralysis to walk again. Two "ReWalk" devices valued at $180,000 are being donated to the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation by Argo Medical Technologies, a highly respected advanced technology firm based in Israel. These cutting-edge devices use robotics, motion sensors, electronic controls and computers in a package that paraplegic patients strap on to stand and walk, and even climb stairs.

Rancho is the first hospital in the Western United States to acquire the ReWalk, and one of only four hospitals in the entire nation to have this technological marvel.

The ReWalk will be demonstrated at Rancho by 36-year-old Agnes Fejerdy, who was injured seven years ago. She was a front-seat passenger in a friend's car when the car was struck on the passenger side. Her spinal cord was injured at T-11 (at the mid-back), leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Agnes was hospitalized for three weeks and in a rehab center for an additional five months. Her doctors in Philadelphia told her she had taken her last step.

But she didn't give up. "I think everybody's dream is to walk again," Agnes said. Thanks to the ReWalk, she can.

Agnes simply straps the ReWalk to her legs and she is ready to go. The 43-pound ReWalk system is powered by a 4-pound backpack battery. ....Since it "walks" her, she only feels the weight of the backpack, not the rest of the device. ReWalk uses motors and motion sensors to help Agnes walk as her center of gravity shifts.

"Having the ability to walk independently has completely changed my life," she said.

Rancho will soon be conducting a major research effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the device, as well as utilizing it for therapy for patients with lower-limb paralysis.

"The ReWalk is the world's most advanced exoskeleton system," said Rancho Chief Medical Officer and noted researcher Mindy Aisen, MD. She worked with Argo Medical Technologies founder Amit Goffer PhD for two years to arrange the unprecedented ReWalk donation to Rancho. "When Agnes gets out of her wheelchair, straps on the ReWalk and begins walking on Monday, it will show many of our patients that someday soon, they too will walk again."

"Argo is proud to partner with Rancho, because it is a public hospital that provides a safety net for individuals with disabilities, because it has one of the largest populations of paralyzed patients in the country, and because Dr. Goffer recognizes that Rancho continues to be a world leader in delivering the highest quality of care to its patients," said Pete Escallier, Argo's Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

"We are very grateful to Dr. Goffer and Argo for this most meaningful donation, which will make a huge difference in the quality of life of many of our patients," said Rancho Chief Executive Officer Jorge Orozco. "Argo's decision to make its only ReWalk donation to our Foundation is yet another acknowledgment of the leading role Rancho plays in the world of rehabilitation medicine."

On Monday, Rancho will demonstrate its latest step forward to the world.

********** Published: April 26, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 02