Walk the talk
Andrew Merryweather of Cape Town was left disabled after an assault in 2006. His family and friends rallied around him and immediately started fundraising for various therapies and gadgets that would improve his quality of his life. After doing some research, they came across a robotic suit that will enable Andrew to walk again.
A friend of his suggested that some of the best medical technology comes from Israel, and this led them to a company called Argo Medical that manufactures the Rewalk suit. This suit is designed by a quadriplegic and is (according to their research) the best and the most cost effective on the market. I would never call £45000 cost effective, but compared to similar products this price tag looks good. Andrew is working towards importing a suit to South Africa.
He has been to the Christopher Reeves Foundation in Miami and has undergone ‘walk therapies’ in San Diego – Project walk. It is amazing what a suit like this could do and what the users can aim to accomplish. Thinking about Andrew, the suit and his support structure, and the possibility of him walking again, I immediately think of more people, who would love this idea. Most of these people would never be able to afford the walking suit, but just the thought of the possibility can make such a significant impact, ask the ambitious Andrew.
I realise that it’s not every quadriplegic that will be able to put on this suit and be fully functional, because there are some requirements that needs to be met to ensure that the wearer and the suit match perfectly. The candidate should be between 1.6 m and 1.9 m tall and he/she should be able to use their hands and shoulders, as some dexterity is required to operate the control mechanism. The suit will even allow you to climb stairs and it will be the closest people would get to standing and walking again. Because it is unhealthy to be sitting down for long periods, the physical benefit of standing will help improve a person’s heatlh. Andrew will use his strength to operate the suit and this will increase not only his mobility, but also his independence.
When I spoke to Andrew about the suit and his plans, I could not help but notice his confidence and enthusiasm. This made me realise how important it is to not always accept the fate of disablement, but to opt to explore various ways of improving your quality of life. It made me see how important it is to be physically ready and mentally prepared for any treatment or cure that might be available, as technology advances. There might not be a cure for spinal cord injuries yet, but this is one way of moving towards making life easier for spinal cord injured individuals. And, if Andrew is successful in raising enough money to bring this Rewalk suit to South Africa, imagine how his life will change.
Let us rally behind him and his team of supporters and support Andrew to not only talk the talk, but also walk the talk.