One night, several months after a motorcycle crash paralyzed him from the chest down in 2012 and ended his U.S. Army special-ops career, Roosevelt "R.J." Anderson Jr. had a dream: he could walk again.
The very next day, he saw a paralyzed friend using an exoskeleton device to walk at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), where Anderson also was receiving treatment. He decided then and there that he would one day walk again, too.
Today, Anderson is the first person in Chicago to receive a ReWalk Robotics Personal exoskeleton device, which he can use at home and throughout the community.
An anonymous benefactor donated the ReWalk Personal system to Anderson through RIC, citing the hospital's reputation as the national leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation. RIC operates the largest rehabilitation enterprise in the world; it receives the most National Institutes of Health award grants; and, it has been ranked as number one in rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report for 24 straight years.
Arun Jayaraman, research scientist at RIC, said that Anderson, from the beginning of his rehabilitation at RIC, has worked with therapists and doctors to push himself to reach his goals, including participating in the national Wounded Warrior Games and earning a medal at the international Invictus Games. Boosted by his participation in RIC's innovative physical medicine and rehabilitation research, Anderson now is eyeing a spot on the United States Paralympic team for 2016.
"RIC worked with the benefactor to select R.J., a veteran patient who demonstrates the spirit and determination needed to successfully regain ability," said Jayaraman. "When R.J. sets his mind to something, he can't be stopped. It's our job to help him achieve his dreams, employing RIC's integrated approach to patient care along with cutting-edge research and technologies, including ReWalk."
Taking the Next Step
ReWalk is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) to stand upright and walk. The system provides user-initiated mobility through the integration of a wearable brace support, a computer-based control system and motion sensors. The system allows independent, controlled walking while mimicking the natural gait patterns of the legs. ReWalk is the only exoskeleton system cleared by the FDA for both personal use and use in a rehabilitation setting in the United States.
"ReWalk is thrilled to be able to facilitate this donation for R.J. and to work with RIC in expanding data about everyday life using the ReWalk," said ReWalk Robotics CEO Larry Jasinski. "The grit and determination R.J. has demonstrated is inspiring, and we are proud to have him as our first ReWalker with a Personal system in Chicago."
RIC will study Anderson's ReWalk use for one year – with quarterly check-ins – to determine the long-term clinical health benefits of regularly using an exoskeleton at home. This device gives Anderson, and other patients with SCI, the ability to stand upright and walk, engage in eye-level conversations and gain increased independence and social connection.
"I've trained at RIC for nearly three years, using exoskeleton devices for a year and a half and this ReWalk device for several months," said Anderson. "Thanks to RIC and ReWalk, I'm ready to take the next step toward independence."
Additional findings from the new research could become the foundation for future, larger studies and may impact insurance reimbursement for exoskeleton devices.