As one of the first clients to use the EksoNR –the world’s most advanced robotic exoskeletons, we sat down with Royal Rehab Private Hospital client Ken to hear about his journey with spinal cord injury and how EksoNR has helped him with walking during therapy.
At the age of 21, Ken was a teacher at a small country school when he sustained a spinal cord injury. Paralysed from the chest down, life was never the same after this, but Ken was motivated more than ever to continue to live life to the fullest.
It’s easy to say Ken has lived, and continues to live, a rewarding and colourful life. From being an active sportsman to becoming a rugby coach, a special education teacher, an author of over seven books, a script writer and, more recently, a teacher of spoken English to migrants and overseas visitors, Ken has accomplished a multitude of achievements throughout the years.
As the years passed by, Ken’s walking had became limited. Then in August, he began to suffer from severe back pain which was diagnosed as a slipped disc in the lumbar region of his spine. As his walking deteriorated further, Ken had a number of consultations which saw him admitted to Royal Rehab Private Hospital for further rehab and evaluation.
It was at Royal Rehab where Ken was first introduced to the EksoNR exoskeleton. His goal at rehab was to retain the ability to walk. When presented with the opportunity to use EksoNR, Ken was intrigued by the device and open-minded about its possibilities. “It was different,” Ken said.
“I have seen things like this on television where technology is used to assist people with walking, but I never imagined that one day I’d be using something like it myself.”
When asked about how the EksoNR exoskeleton felt for the first time physically and emotionally, Ken’s response was guarded. “The first time I used it, I felt a little scared,” he said. “However, I trusted the team and they were very supportive and quickly dispelled my concerns. Since using the EksoNR, Ken feels it has been a step forward and a step worth taking.
Now after seven sessions, Ken’s confidence and ability to walk with the EksoNR has improved significantly. Using a rollator frame and more recently, crutches, he is now able to walk up to 80 metres – a stark difference from the initial 20 metres he was able to do coming into rehab.
“I feel more confident each time I use it,” said Ken. “Despite all the metal around me it does help you walk normally and doesn’t twist you into unnatural positions.” Ken felt that the machine worked with him and helped correct any deficiencies in his walking gait.
Ken mentioned two things that are integral to his growing confidence in the technology that Ekso brings – the real-time data and the Royal Rehab support team.
“After a few sessions, I was encouraged by seeing the data which detailed my progress and improvement,” said Ken. The other factor he spoke about was the support staff who Ken said were “both encouraging and supportive as we worked together to meet my goals.” Then Ken laughed, “there was always a mini celebration when I made any improvement.”
As the interview finished, Ken made an observation about traditional methods of rehabilitation and recent methods where technology is used. “Sometimes you need to go beyond the human side and just follow the numbers through mechanical means,” he said.
Ken said he valued the personal support and expertise of the physiotherapists at Royal Rehab, but he also saw the value of EksoNR in that it’s programmed “to take you through the mechanical aspects of the movements of walking”.
After six weeks of intensive EksoNR therapy, Ken has improved his ability to walk during therapy. He has improved his mobility from fully assisted to supervised, doubled his walking time, increased his speed by 35% and improved his number of steps by 66%. Ken has just been discharged after five months at Royal Rehab Private Hospital and now spends much of his time watching his three grandsons grow and continuing his rehab journey at home.
The EksoNR advanced robotic exoskeleton is now available in Australia at Royal Rehab, delivering better and faster outcomes for people living with neurological conditions and injury such as stroke, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injury and more. You can access the EksoNR through our inpatient and day rehab programs as well as through your relevant funding body such as NDIS, iCare or self-fund. For more information on the EksoNR, contact us on (02) 9808 9222 or visit us on www.royalrehab.com.au/eksoNR to see how we can help you or a loved one today.