NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Step by step and day by day. That’s what Andrea Blair kept reminding herself after she got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
“I was pretty active, so it was a shocker to not be able to move and walk at all,” she said.
Luckily for Blair, the Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center at Newport Hospital recently acquired the EksoNR Skeleton to help patients learn how to walk again.
“I think the first part was, ‘Wow, this is the real deal,'” Blair recalled.
The goal of the device is to help people get back on their feet sooner so they can relearn correct step patterns, weight shifting and posture.
“Before you start walking, it just stands you up straight, so knowing that I can stand up and I can take these steps really did a big boost for my confidence, and I think it helped my mental health at the time just knowing that there are some possibilities here for my body,” Blair said.
Dr. Stephan Pirnie, a physiatrist with Newport Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, said the exoskeleton is designed to support and promote mobility for patients with stroke, acquired brain injury, spinal cord injuries and MS.
“It attaches to the body of the person and then has basically motors in the leg part of the equipment that allows it to help and assist with people being able to stand,” Dr. Pirnie explained.
The device also speeds up patients’ recovery time.
“Oftentimes we can use it to get people up and standing and starting to walk earlier than they might otherwise in their rehabilitation course,” Dr. Pirnie added.
It’s the first device of its kind to be cleared by the FDA for use.