Helping Paralyzed Patients Walk Again: Drake Center First in Region to Offer Bionic Exoskeleton Technology

Woman walks with crutches

Lisa Davis, PT, DPT, left, assists Carolina Hatton in a demonstration of the new Ekso™ bionic exoskeleton, a wearable robot. Assisting from behind is Lisa Goetz, PT, DPT.
Photo by Mark Bowen Media / UC Health.

Media contact:
Diana Lara
(513) 584-8865
(513) 503-3368
diana.lara@uchealth.com

At age 18, Carolina Hatton of Hamilton, Ohio, was injured in a car accident on her way home from an Orange Bowl Game in Florida in 2009. The mother of an 8-month-old baby, she was left paralyzed from the waist down. Like millions with spinal cord injuries, she uses a wheelchair for mobility. Now she has new hope as Drake Center introduces her to Ekso.

Drake Center-UC Health is one of 20 facilities in the world to offer the Ekso™ bionic exoskeleton device to patients with paralysis, including Carolina Hatton, enabling them to stand and walk again. Carolina gave Drake Center’s premier demonstration of Ekso on Wednesday, November 14.

Developed by Ekso Bionics, the wearable robot was recently named a Top 10 invention by CNN and Wired, one of Five Big Ideas for the Next 15 Years by Inc. Magazine, and one of the Best Inventions by TIME.

“As only the 20th user of Ekso in the world, our goal at Drake Center is to offer the most advanced technology available in an outpatient therapy setting,” says Paige Thomas, PT-MSR, NCS, Manager, Physical/Occupational Therapy, at Drake. “The Ekso is an amazing opportunity for patients who qualify to accomplish their dreams to return to walking and all the benefits that being upright provides.”

How Ekso works: The physical therapist uses the control pad to program the desired walking parameters, such as step length and speed, and controls when Ekso stands, sits and takes a step. The therapist also has the ability to modify Ekso’s walking progression as the patient improves, allowing the patient to initiate steps independently when he or she is able to balance comfortably.

People pose for photo

From left: Bruce Flory, Carolina Hatton andKevin Moeller. Photo by Mark Bowen Media / UC Health

“I am unable to stand up straight and shift my weight properly, but with Ekso I can!” says Ms. Hatton. “The Ekso always puts a smile on my face because it gives me hope. One of the things I would love to accomplish is to stand up and hold my son. The Ekso gives that dream a fighting chance in what sometimes seems like a one-sided battle.”

At UC Health, Ekso is the catalyst for the new comprehensive NeuroRecovery Program, scheduled for debut in the coming months.

“This program will focus on a continuum of care ranging from acute care to community wellness for people with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and other neurological disorders,” says Anya Sanchez, MD, Administrative Director, University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “This innovative program is being designed by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the field of neurorecovery and will drive research, provide education, and improve quality of life for patients in our region.”

Through Ekso research at Drake and the other 19 rehabilitation facilities around the world who are using it, Ekso Bionics envisions the launch of a personal consumer version as soon as 2014.

To learn more about Ekso at Drake Center: Call (513) 418-2409 or visit eksobionics.com.

About Drake Center:  Drake Center, a member of UC Health, is the region’s premier provider of long-term acute care offering a complete range of inpatient and outpatient services including medically complex care, skilled nursing, assisted living, wellness services and research. For more information, call (513) 418-2500 or visit UCHealth.com/DrakeCenter.

About UC Health:  UC Health is the University of Cincinnati’s affiliated health system. In addition to Drake Center, it includes University Hospital, ranked the best hospital in the region by US News and World Report; West Chester Hospital, Cincinnati’s newest hospital; UC Physicians, Cincinnati’s largest specialty practice group with 650 board-certified clinicians and surgeons; Lindner Center of HOPE, the region’s premier mental health center; the UC Cancer Institute, the UC Cardiovascular Institute; the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute; and the UC Diabetes and Endocrinology Institute. To learn more, visit UCHealth.com.

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