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New tech has paralyzed vet on her feet for race


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Sep 21, 2012
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By Patricia Kime - Staff writer @ New tech has paralyzed vet on her feet for race - Military News | News From Afghanistan, Iraq And Around The World - Military Times
Posted : Friday Oct 19, 2012 16:20:05 EDT

A paralyzed veteran will walk Saturday in a 1-mile “fun run” to raise money for wounded troops, thanks to an exoskeleton that allows her to get out of her wheelchair and onto the streets.

Theresa Hannigan, a former Army sergeant who served during the Vietnam era, will join paraplegic Robert Woo in using ReWalk devices — commercial robotic legs that allow paralyzed users to stand up and walk — in the Long Island Run for the Warriors race in Lindenhurst, N.Y.

Hannigan has been in a wheelchair since 2010 when an autoimmune disorder left her unable to walk.

She and Woo are patients in a study of ReWalks sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York.

They have raised more than $1,000 for the race, which benefits Hope for the Warriors, and they hope to draw attention to cutting-edge research that helps those who never thought they would walk again.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to use this device, to stand up and be back at eye level with others, it’s awesome,” said former Marine David Lowell, a study participant who is unable to walk on Saturday but is training to participate in the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

Researchers at the VA hospital’s Center of Excellence for Major Consequences of Spinal Cord Injuries are studying the robo-walkers to determine their effects on the health of paralyzed individuals. Walking devices not only allow the paralyzed to move, they likely improve overall health by exercising the heart and lungs and increasing lean tissue mass and bone density, according to VA researcher Ann Spungen.

Using the ReWalk, Hannigan and Woo hope to finish their walk in about 90 minutes to two hours.

Lowell can walk at just under 1 mile per hour and hopes to eventually test other technologies so he can perambulate at a 2-mile-per-hour pace. He had been working to compete in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon but was sidelined by an injury unrelated to training.

If he participates next year, it will be his third Marine Corps Marathon; he ran in 1993 and participated in the wheelchair marathon in 2003.

“We have technology now — bikes, racing wheelchairs — that we didn’t have 20 years ago. I want to help promote this technology because the walking device has the biggest potential to make the next leap forward,” Lowell said.


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