Oklahoma VA Using New Technology To Help Disabled Veterans Walk
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Veteran's Affairs Health Care System is trying out some new technology.
Recently, the VA began using a robotic exoskeleton device to help paralyzed patients with physical therapy. Once finished with the treatment, veterans will hopefully stand and walk again.
One of the patients is Army Veteran Johnnie Williams III, who suffered a spinal cord injury while deployed to Iraq. Last week, Williams used the exoskeleton bionic suit to walk again for the first time in 16 years.
The journey has been long for a man who was not expected to make it.
“We were in a convoy, and I was hit by an Iraqi truck,” said Williams. “They didn't tell me anything, because I was supposed to die within 72 hours.”
“Everyone was bursting with pride and joy for Johnnie,” said Physical Therapist Whitney Anderson, who witnessed the event with Casey Kandilakis, a representative of company who manufactures the Indego Therapy Exoskeleton.
“It was a priceless moment to watch a true hero regain his independence. We were thrilled to be part of the effort to give something back to someone who given so much to serve his country,” continued Anderson.
The exoskeleton device straps tightly around the user’s torso, with rigid supports strapped to the legs, extending from the hip to the knee and from the knee to the foot. Both the knee and hip joints are driven by a computer-controlled and battery-powered electric motor. Users are able to balance themselves using the apparatus with walkers or forearm crutches.
But Williams isn’t alone. There is another veteran who is already using the device at home.
“My mom says I need to keep up when we go to garage sales and my daughter is usually telling me to hurry up, so I needed much higher gear,” said Marine Veteran Jennifer Holmes, who was in a car accident 10 years ago that left her paralyzed.
“My mother, husband, and daughter give me the motivation to keep going. We’ve already planned a trip to the Oklahoma City Zoo to try out the new speed,” continued Holmes.
Holmes said her daughter is her main motivation. She added she will continue to advocate for other veterans who have not heard of this technology.