Chicago veteran walks again with exoskeleton

Roosevelt "R.J." Anderson Jr. is the first Chicago patient to receive a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton for home use.
By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |  April 3, 2015 at 11:44 AM
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CHICAGO, April 3 (UPI) -- A Chicago veteran who was paralyzed from the chest down by a motorcycle crash in 2012 is walking again with the help of a robotic exoskeleton.

Roosevelt "R.J." Anderson Jr. walked out of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Thursday with the help of a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, which powers his hip and knee motions.

Anderson has been training on the $70,000 device and he was able to walk out with his ReWalk Thursday and take it home thanks to a donation from an anonymous benefactor.

"It's allowed me to just feel better, be better and improve my quality of life," Anderson told WLS-TV.

Dr. Arun Jayaraman of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago said walking with the device is a difficult adjustment that requires a lot of training.

"When you and I walk, we can feel the floor and feel the ground. But when you can't feel anything below your limbs, and you're depending on a robot to move it, it's very important that he is in sync with it," Jayaraman told WGN-TV. "The device on this side has an angle sensor and it's a tilt sensor just above his waist. So when RJ is standing it looks for a certain tilt angle which we can preset and once it tilts it triggers the device. He needs to be in this rhythmic movement. So it takes many training sessions to get to the sync."

Anderson is the first Chicago patient to have a ReWalk for home use.

"I see myself absolutely strapping in it every day, at least for an hour a day, at least. I would like to get proficient in the device and be able to use it proficiently in the community, walk maybe to the store with it. To be able to stand at home, reach things in cabinets, possibly cook, just being back on my feet. The idea of that is amazing," he said.

Doctors said they will follow up with Anderson to study the device's impact on secondary medical complications common to people with injuries similar to Anderson's.

"People like R.J. are prone to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal failure, urinary tract infection," Jayraman said.

Anderson said he is setting new goals for the future.

"I'm looking beyond walking. I see myself running. That's the goal," he said.

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