Bionic Woman stands tall with a skeleton suit
A paraplegic mother dubbed “the Bionic Woman” after running the London Marathon on robotic legs has become the first person in the world to use the new technology at home.
Claire Lomas, who lit the cauldron at Trafalgar Square to start the Paralympics torch relay, says she can now talk to friends and family “eye to eye” thanks to the £43,000 exoskeleton.
Mrs Lomas, 32, was given the ReWalk technology to train for the marathon, which she completed over 17 days, and has now been allowed to take it home. The suit helps move her knees and hips to let her walk, stand or sit at the flick of a button through a computer-based control system and motion sensors.
It means that five years after a horse-riding accident left her paralysed from the waist down and consigned to a wheelchair, she can now do the
everyday activities most people take for granted.
The former showjumper said: “I went to the pub a week ago and it was the first time I have stood at the bar since my accident.
“It is an amazing feeling standing up — normally I can’t see over the bar. I am loving it, it is great to be back upright. It feels so good.
“At the moment I use it as a rehab tool and also socially. I will use it to go out if I want to do any public speaking or social events or parties where people are standing up. With the help of the ReWalk I am able to stand, walk, talk to my friends and family eye-to-eye, and exercise in ways that I have not been able to since my injury.”
Mrs Lomas, who lives with husband Dan Spincer and 18-month-old
daughter Maisie in Leicestershire, completed the marathon in her bionic suit in April, raising more than £200,000 for spine injury research.
Weeks later she ignited the Paralympics cauldron in Trafalgar Square.
She said: “Doing the marathon was hard work and mentally very challenging because I couldn’t feel my legs and you have to concentrate on each step. But it was a great experience.
“I never gave up on walking again. I was in training for 12 weeks with the suit, but I have also been on the treadmill with people helping me walk.”
Mrs Lomas was given the exoskeleton, made by ARGO Medical Technologies and supplied by Cyclone Technologies, with a 50 per cent discount and raised the rest of the money.
Other versions of the suit have been used across the world in treatment programmes, but hers is the first to be allowed for home use.
She was today showing it off at the annual International Spinal Cord
Society meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central
London. It lets her ascend and descend stairs, although she still also uses her wheelchair.