Robocop-style legs help paralysed woman walk again

ReWalk_BBC1A woman who was paralysed five years ago is learning how to walk using Robocop-style mechanical legs.

Claire Lomas was told she would never walk again when she damaged her spinal cord in a riding accident in 2007.

But now Ms Lomas, from Leicestershire, has taken 30 steps using the £43,000 ReWalk unit at a rehabilitation centre in Ottringham, East Yorkshire.

The mother, who is the first person in the UK to use ReWalk, says she wants to complete the London Marathon in April.

The centre is run by Cyclone Technologies, whose managing director Dave Hawkins described the ReWalk technology as similar to that seen in the film Robocop.

He said: “It’s an externally fastened on system with motors that assists with the hip and the knee joints to give a walking gait pattern, so you can actually walk in a normal manner.”

Walk up the aisle
Users wear a backpack device and braces on their legs. Leaning forwards activates sensors setting the robotic legs in motion.

The exoskeleton system was developed by an Israeli company, set-up by an engineer who was paralysed after breaking his neck.

Ms Lomas, of Melton Mowbray, said she had been lobbying the company to be given the opportunity.

“I heard about it about two years ago, before I got married, ” she said.

“I wanted it to walk up the aisle, but it wasn’t going to happen that soon.”

Sports day
She said her one-year-old daughter, Maisie, was helping to keep her motivated.

“We’re having a bit of a competition to see who can walk first,” she said.

“We’re about level at the moment, but young brains learn quicker, so I’m not sure whether she is going to overtake me soon.”

She estimated it would take her between one to two weeks to complete the 26-mile (41km) London Marathon, raising money for the charity Spinal Research.

Ms Lomas said using the system was not just about regaining the ability to walk.

“Emotionally, to be stood up. How you feel when you are out and stuff, just to be at the same height as everyone else.”

She hopes to receive her custom-built unit later in the year, and said she was aiming to take part in the mothers’ race at her daughter’s school sports day.

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