Paralyzed Texas man walking again thanks to special robotic suit
Austin, TX (CNN) - He calls himself Robo-Joe. An Austin man paralyzed for more than five years is once again learning how to walk. He's doing it with the help of some amazing technology.
“Robo Joe engage.”
Twice a week you'll find Joe Fischer walking the halls of St. David's Hospital.
Joe Fischer – Uses ReWalk: “Little tight on the bench on the left, we're good.”
It's not a miraculous feat by most standards, but what you don't know is that Joe is paralyzed.
Joe Fischer: “I was injured November 2009. I fell from a deer stand. I broke 4 vertebrae in my back, suffered a spinal cord injury. I was banged up pretty bad.”
But through this robotic suit of sorts, called ReWalk, Joe is back on his feet.
Dr. Juan Latorre – St. David’s Rehab: “The first time I saw it I said this cannot be possible. Somebody that has no sensation or movement in the legs, there's no way they can use this device.”
Dr. Juan Latore is the medical director of the spinal cord injury and amputee program at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital. He's the reason ReWalk is here.
Dr. Juan Latore: “So it senses your balance and it senses when you're displacing it, and then when it senses that you're going forward, the device walks for you, so it takes a step. They can go up and down ramps, they can go up and down stairs. It's really quite amazing what this suit can do."
The benefits are pretty amazing too. Better bone density, muscle tone, control of body function - and that's just the physical.
Dr.Juan Latoree: “Imagine not having any feeling from the chest down and when they stand up it's like you're floating on air.”
Joe Fischer: “It feels really awesome to stand up and kiss my fiancée.”
In the seven months Joe has used ReWalk, the progress is impressive.
Joe Fischer: “Now from where I started, big improvement.”
While just two people have used the suit so far, St. David's will soon expand, giving more people access to this potentially life changing experience.
ReWalk is already approved for home use in Europe, but not in the US. Dr. Latorre expects that to change later this year.