University of Canberra student with paraplegia learns to walk again in time for graduation
A Canberra university graduate who lost the use of his legs 11 years ago has walked across the stage to accept his degree, with the help of a robotic exoskeleton.
Paul Jenkins was left with paraplegia after a motorcycle accident in 2006, but has been regaining control of his legs through a mix of stem cell therapy, physiotherapy and training in the use of the exoskeleton, known as the ReWalk.
To keep his mind active during intense physiotherapy, Mr Jenkins began studying commerce and applied economics at the University of Canberra.
“It’s taken a lot – I had to learn to crawl again, had to learn to kneel again, learn to balance,” he said.
“I thought ‘you’ve still got to keep your brain working while you’re going through this process’, so I just enrolled in a few units and here I am.”
PHOTO: Paul Jenkins graduated along with hundreds of other students at Parliament House today. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)
The ReWalk uses motorised hip and knee motions to allow the wearer to walk.
“It’s basically Forrest Gump meets an iPad,” Mr Jenkins said.
“I hate the chair … every time I get out of it is a bonus.
“I can feel the differences, I know when I’m on marble, carpet, sand, grass.”
While the device is still in its early days, Jim Barrett from ReWalk’s Australian distributor Making Strides said he hoped the device could one day replace the wheelchair.
“There’s a lot of medical benefits, so bone density increase, in muscle mass, decrease in fat mass,” he said.
“A lot of quality-of-life markers as well will improve like sleep and fatigue, and even just social interaction factors as well.”
PHOTO: Paul Jenkins hopes to one day be able to walk without the help of the device. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)
While crossing the stage on his own two feet was an emotional moment for Mr Jenkins, he said the idea started as a joke.
“This was a joke that I was called on – I had no intention to do this and then I said it as a joke, and now here I am,” he said.
Author: ABC News
Date: April 11th, 2017