Spinal cord injuries are some of the most devastating and life-altering injuries that a person can suffer. When the spinal cord injury results in paralysis, victims must generally spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. It's a very difficult transition to cope with, not just physically, but emotionally and financially.
There may be some hope on the horizon, however, for people suffering from paralysis in California and across the country. Though the condition has proven stubbornly difficult to cure, new technologies are helping victims cope with their injuries more easily. Last month, for example, an East Coast hospital unveiled a pair of mechanical legs that could be used to allow spinal cord injury patients to walk.
The legs function as an exoskeleton; they are strapped to the outside of the patient's thighs and calves. Electric motors help support the patient and move his or her legs. Last month, the technology was demonstrated by a woman in a South Carolina hospital; the woman, though not completely paralyzed, had been confined to a wheelchair ever since she fell from a utility pole 18 years ago. With the exoskeleton, she is able to walk again.
The woman said that she loved being able to look people in the eye when she used the exoskeleton. In a wheelchair, she said she was always "looking up." With the exoskeleton, she can speak eye-to-eye with people, which she said was an enormous psychological comfort.
Spinal cord injuries are often all the more devastating because in many cases, they are not the victim's fault. When a spinal cord injury is caused by another party's negligent behavior, such as drunk driving or failing to maintain a premises, the victim has a right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This lawsuit can help victims cope with the enormous financial costs associated with a serious injury or paralysis.
Technology like the exoskeleton can be of great comfort to those who have been injured, however it still has a long way to come. Set-up times are lengthy, and patients must still rely heavily upon crutches. Perhaps in the future, however, spinal cord injury victims will be able to use exoskeletons to regain all of their lost mobility.
Source: The Post and Courier, "New 'Exoskeleton' allows patients with spinal cord injuries to walk again" Lauren Sausser, Feb. 27, 2014