Paralyzed woman takes home ReWalk power legs

Claire Lomas of England has become the first person in the world to begin home use of the powered exoskeleton that helped her walk the London Marathon.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Claire Lomas lost the use of her legs after colliding with a tree while horseback riding. ReWalk lets her get around now. Argo Medical Technologies

Power suits are getting more commonplace. A paralyzed British woman has become the first person to take home a robotic exoskeleton that helped her walk the London Marathon earlier this year.

Claire Lomas, who finished the 26.2-mile race over 17 days, is setting the pace for home use of the ReWalk at home, according to Israeli maker Argo Medical Technologies.

The 32-year-old mother was paralyzed from the chest down after a 2007 horseback riding accident, but the motorized legs allow her to stand, climb and descend stairs, and walk around independently.

"I am very excited to take the ReWalk home and incorporate it in my daily life," Lomas was quoted as saying in a press release. "With the help of the ReWalk I am able to stand, walk, talk to my friends and family eye-to-eye, and exercise in a ways that I have not been able to since my injury."

The product became available to consumers in the EU this week. While ReWalk can now be taken home in Europe, the FDA has only approved it for use in rehabilitation centers in the U.S. Users have must be able to support themselves with crutches.

The exoskeleton consists of computer-controlled brace supports on the legs with sensors that detect when a shift in balance occurs, indicating user is taking another step.

The device costs some 45,000 pounds ($71,000) but it could help reduce the huge long-term costs of treating paralyzed patients for ailments such as loss of bone density, Reuters reported, adding that Argo believes some 250,000 wheelchair users in Europe and the U.S. could benefit from ReWalk.

The marathon helped Lomas raise more than 200,000 pounds ($317,600) for research into spinal cord injury, and she was chosen to light the cauldron at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

She's apparently planning to bicycle from London to Paris next year using a bike that stimulates her leg muscles to propel it down the road. Clearly, there's no stopping her.