Quadriplegic teen walks again thanks to exoskeleton
A trampoline accident left Kollin Galland paralyzed. But thanks to his very own exoskeleton, which cost $65,000, he’s able to sit and stand, and do things with family and friends. Someone has to be with him at all times. Here his father, Gary Galland, walks behind him to make sure he’s OK. In Sugar House, Monday. Feb. 2, 2015. (Winston Armani, Deseret News )
PROVO — A quadriplegic Utah teen is able to walk again thanks to his own determination and the help of a state-of-the-art exoskeleton.
With the push of a button, Kollin Galland stands up. Then with another command through his wrist remote, he walks. It’s an improvement compared with where he was 2 . years ago. Though an accident on a trampoline left him paralyzed, a bed or even a wheelchair was not going to hold him down.
Kollin is now walking with the help of a metal framework exoskeleton. But even more, this one is his very own. He’s the youngest person in the world to buy the device and take it home. The state-of-the-art robotics unit is normally reserved for use in rehabilitation centers. But the Food and Drug Administration recently decided to allow patients to buy the system.
For Kollin, even rising up and standing means a lot.
A trampoline accident left Kollin Galland paralyzed. But thanks to his very own exoskeleton, which cost $65,000, he’s able to sit and stand, and do things with family and friends. Someone has to be with him at all times. Here his father, Gary Galland, walks behind him to make sure he’s OK, and Kristen Black-Bain, a University of Utah doctor of physical therapy, is in front of him to watch his progress in Sugar House, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. (Winston Armani, Deseret News)
“Just hanging out with my friends at home, standing up again, and being eye level with them … I’m just grateful there’s even something out there like this that I have the opportunity to use, and then actually get for my own,” Kollin said.
Indoors or outdoors, the exoskeleton gives Kollin all kinds of freedom. He can go shopping, walk with his friends, sit and stand, and, with some new software expected to be ready later this year, he’ll be able to walk up and down stairs.
The system, called “ReWalk,” works off a tilt meter that is triggered by movement. Users must have strength in their arms and core muscles.
“When Kollin moves forward and his weight shifts appropriately, ReWalk then knows when to take a step,” said Kristen Black-Bain, a University of Utah doctor of physical therapy.
A trampoline accident left Kollin Galland paralyzed. But thanks to his very own exoskeleton, which cost $65,000, he’s able to sit and stand, and do things with family and friends. Through a command through his wrist, he’s able to walk. Monday, Feb. 2. 2015, was his final therapy session. (Winston Armani, Deseret News)
The robot is mainly designed for paraplegics, not quadriplegics, but the Spinal Cord Team at the University of Utah decided to certify Kollin because of his determination and output during training.
“He was an athlete before the injury. He played a lot of sports then, and even now he plays wheelchair rugby,” said Black-Bain. “And with special equipment, he’s skiing. Though a quadriplegic, he’s young and has a strong upper body.”
Black-Bain said she believes Kollin is simply in tune with his body.
Obtaining a ReWalk is not easy. Personal units cost about $65,000. Plus, users must be certified.
“They have to be able to take the device out in the community and move around and cross streets,” said Black-Bain. “They have to be comfortable enough to walk and talk, which is difficult for some people.”
Gary and Jodie Galland help nurses move Kollin Galland for physical therapy at Primary Children’s Hospital. He was doing a double backflip Aug. 30, 2013, on a friend’s trampoline and broke his neck. He was paralyzed from the neck down Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
Kollin had to learn how it works, how to put it on and take it off, and how to recover if he falls.
Since someone has to be with him at all times when he’s walking, his parents had to certify, too.
Is it worth it?
“Absolutely,” Jodie Galland said. “It’s just unbelievable to see my son upright, to see his legs moving, to see a smile on his face. That’s a great feeling for a parent to have.”
Gary Galland echoes those feelings. “We’ve been fortunate that our son Kollin never gives up. He’s never had a depressed day where he feels, ‘This is awful and terrible and not worth it.’ Just the weight-bearing on his legs and the walking is a health benefit that will pay off.”
Though the unit was expensive, the extended Galland family divided the cost and chipped in to help Kollin buy the exoskeleton.
Kollin Galland participates in locomotor training at Neuroworx with the help of his father, Gary, right, while clinic director Jan Black, left, and physical therapy assistant Mike Erickson, center, monitor the process. (Barr Photography)
Like many who are paralyzed, this 15-year-old teenager has a dream. He hopes that perhaps through retraining reflexes researchers now know are built into leg muscles, he might somewhere down the road walk on his own.
But for now, letting his own exoskeleton — nicknamed “Steve” — do it for him is a bit of real science fiction he never envisioned.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just awesome,” Kollin said.