After transferring himself from a wheelchair into a robotic suit,
onlookers held their breath with excitement as they watched 27-year-old
Aaron Bloom grip the handles of specially designed crutches, raise to
his full height, and walk at Huntington
Memorial Hospital's Outpatient
Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday. Bloom, who lost the use of his
legs in a July 2010 accident, became one of the first Southern
California residents to begin using the bionic suit designed by Ekso
Bionics and now available at Huntington Hospital.
Aaron Bloom, 27, a paraplegic, wowed onlookers as he transferred from his wheelchair, donned a bionic suit and walked at Huntington Memorial Hospital's Outpatient Rehabilitation Satellite in Pasadena yesterday. Bloom, who became paralyzed in 2010, is one of the first Southern California residents to use the ready-to-wear, robotic exoskeleton designed by Ekso Bionics. Stabilizing crutches equipped with remote control buttons allow him to control the computerized suit as he walks. (Photo: Business Wire)
Other wheelchair-bound Southern California individuals, captivated by
the prospect of using the robotic suit themselves, watched in awe as
Bloom demonstrated this incredible new technology that enables people
with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. Huntington
Hospital is the first hospitalin Southern California and only the third
in the western United States to offer the suit.
"It's a powerful experience to be able to regain an ability that I have
lost," said Bloom. "I hope that other wheelchair-bound people will have
the opportunity to walk across a room and once again see things from a
higher vantage point."
Patients are able to walk with the assistance of Ekso™, a ready-to-wear,
battery-powered bionic suit - or exoskeleton - that is strapped over the
user's clothing. With the patient providing the balance and proper body
positioning, Ekso allows patients to walk while a physical therapist
uses the control pad to program the desired walking parameters, such as
step length and speed, as well as control when the Ekso stands, sits and
takes a step. It is powered by two high-capacity lithium batteries,
which drive the hip and knee motors.
"What we are witnessing is the collective power of ingenuity, science
and engineering combined with the human spirit," said Sunil Hegde, M.D.,
medical director of Huntington's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. "The
Ekso technology allows people to rethink current physical limitations
and achieve the remarkable."
Ekso can be adjusted to fit most people between 5'2" and 6'2" who weigh
220 pounds or less. The user needs arm function and adequate upper
extremity strength to manage crutches or a walker. An experienced user
can transfer to/from their wheelchair and put on or off the Ekso in less
than five minutes. The torso and leg straps are designed to enable the
user/patient to easily get in and out of the device with no or minimal
assistance. The learning curve is user specific, and usually individuals
begin using a walker and progress to crutches.
The addition of the Ekso technology to Huntington Hospital's Outpatient
Rehabilitation Center was made possible through the generosity of a
challenge gift from donors Carol and Harry Tsao and Renata and Talmadge
O'Neill. They made their donation in honor of their families'
philanthropic legacies. Tsao and Talmadge are co-founders of Mezi Media
and are investors in Ekso Bionics.
So as to encourage other people to support these much-needed services,
Tsao and Talmadge have agreed to match dollar for dollar other community
donations to the hospital's neuroscience program. "We are deeply
grateful to these wonderful families for their support of important and
life-changing care within our walls," said Dr. Hegde.
"While this technology is currently used only in rehabilitation centers,
we join with Ekso in looking forward to the day when people will be able
to utilize this technology on the sidewalks or in shopping malls,"
continued Dr. Hegde. "Since the robotic suit is a self-contained robotic
and not tethered to a power supply, why not dream big "
Currently 18 medical centers in the United States and two in Europe
offer the Ekso exoskeleton device. Its manufacturer, Ekso Bionics, is
headquartered in Richmond, California, with offices in London. Further
information may be obtained at http://www.eksobionics.com.
Huntington Memorial Hospital is a 625-bed not-for-profit hospital that
is home to the only Level II Trauma Center in the San Gabriel Valley. In
addition to being granted Magnet® status in 2011, Huntington
Hospital has been ranked nationally by U.S. News and World Report
in two specialties and was named the 8th best hospital in
California. Renowned for its programs in neurosciences, cardiovascular
services and cancer care, Huntington Hospital is an active teaching
hospital with graduate medical education programs in internal medicine
and general surgery. Consistent with its mission, the hospital provides
millions of dollars annually in charity care, benefits for vulnerable
populations, health research, education and training, and support
programs that may otherwise be absent from the community. For more
information, go to www.huntingtonhospital.com.
Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20121220006382/en/
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