Robocop Never Looked This Good
When Claire Lomas severed her spinal cord 5 years ago, she was told she would never walk again. Claire was a successful and talented Event horse rider who competed at 4* level. But whilst competing at Osberton Horse Trials, in England in 2007, she collided with a tree. …Her injuries were to change her life forever.
Paralysed from the chest down, how will Claire manage to compete in the London Marathon 2012?
During the collision, Claire fractured her neck, back and ribs. She also punctured a lung, which resulted in pneumonia, and a tracheotomy was required so that she could breathe. Sadly the fractures to her back had damaged Claire's spinal cord, resulting in paralysis from her chest down.
So, five years on and still paralysed, it is surprising, to say the least, to hear Claire say that she will be taking part in this year's Virgin London Marathon!
Her quest to get better and to walk again prompted her to contact the East Yorkshire Company, Cyclone. They decided to work with Claire to test a remarkable ReWalkTM Robotic suit for the UK market. The suit is manufactured by Argo Medical Technologies and comprises a light wearable brace support suit, which integrates motors at the joints, an array of sensors, a computer based control system and rechargeable batteries. The Robocop-like powered exoskeleton is designed to help people with lower limb disabilities, such as Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Spina Bifida, to regain mobility and independence.
The ReWalkTM suit is able to detect subtle changes in movement and center of gravity to enable the user to ‘walk’ with the aid of crutches.
The problem of paralysis is not just the inability to walk. Spinal injury affects sensation, bowel and bladder function, circulation, temperature regulation, sexual function, bone density and depression. In addition, complications involving pressure sores, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems are common. By allowing someone with paralysis to stand up and move more freely, many of these issues can be addressed. Claire has expressed great relief in being able to stand up again after five years of sitting down confined to a wheelchair.
Claire, who is the first person in the UK to use the £43,000 ReWalkTM unit, has so far managed to take 30 steps which is a major accomplishment. However, she’ll need to walk around 55,000 steps to be able to complete the London Marathon in April. She estimates that it will take her between one and two weeks to reach the end of the 26.2 mile course.
Claire’s current motivation is provided by her one-year-old daughter, Maisie. “We’re having a bit of a competition at the moment to see who can walk first!”
Research into Spinal Cord Injuries has come a long way over recent years. Although Stem Cell treatments grab the headlines, science is also providing breakthroughs with the aid of new technologies and materials that help to make systems like the ReWalkTM robotic suit a real alternative for people like Claire.
You can find out more about Claire's London Marathon Challenge & her fundraising for Spinal Research