Paralyzed veterans gain independence with McGuire study

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — New research at McGuire VA Medical Center is helping some paralyzed veterans literally take steps to improve their lives.

Currently, there are six veterans enrolled in the study on ReWalk, the first FDA-approved exoskeleton for both home and hospital usage.

After training, approved patients are able to take the robotic device home to see how regular use aids not only their physical health but also their emotional well-being.

“The exercise that you get standing up, the circulation, the cardiovascular exercise that you get, everything is going to be very helpful for that,” says Maj. (Ret.) Terry Labar.

Labar has been in a wheelchair for 33 years since being struck by a hit and run driver in Israel.

Labar is excited about the ReWalk’s potential for current paralyzed veterans and those in the future.

“They won’t get into their wheelchairs so much,” Labar expects. “They’ll have a machine that’s a couple generations from this where they’ll be truly independent.”

Dr. Ashraf Gorgey, the Director of Spinal Cord Injury Research at McGuire, says the benefits should be almost immediate.

“We want to see if the device can give them the opportunity to be independent and improve their quality of life being home and surrounded by their loved ones and surrounded by their families,” Dr. Gorgey says. “After 25 years of being in a wheelchair, the patients are happy to be walking around, walking through their neighborhood. Also, their caregivers are very excited to see them up and walking.”

Richmond is one of six VA facilities across the country taking part in the ReWalk study.

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