HAIFA, Israel (Reuters)–paralyzed for the past 20 years, former Israeli paratrooper Radi Kaiof now walks down the street with a dim mechanical hum.
That is the sound of an electronic exoskeleton moving the 41-year-old’s legs and propelling him forward–with a proud expression on his face–as passersby stare in surprise. “I never dreamed I would walk again. After I was wounded, I forgot what it’s like,” said Kaiof, who was injured while serving in the Israeli military in 1988. “Only when standing up can I feel how tall I really am and speak to people eye to eye, not from below.”
The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company. Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by comic hero Iron Man, ReWalk helps paraplegics–people paralyzed below the waist–to stand, walk and climb stairs…
The ReWalk is now in clinical trials in Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Centre and Goffer said it will soon be used in trials at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Pennsylvania
It’s also healthy for people to be able to get up on their feet:
Kate Parkin, director of physical and occupational therapy at NYU Medical Centre, said it has the potential to improve a user’s health in two ways.
“Physically, the body works differently when upright. You can challenge different muscles and allow full expansion of the lungs,” Parkin said. “Psychologically, it lets people live at the upright level and make eye contact.”
Iuly Treger, deputy director of Israel’s Loewenstein Rehabilitation Centre, said: “It may be a burdensome device, but it will be very helpful and important for those who choose to use it.”
So, let us never forget: Good ethics and good science are a powerful combination that offer a cornucopia of benefits to humankind.