New Prosthesis Technology Offers Hope to Veteran

What at one time seemed impossible is now a reality thanks to the incredible advancements in prosthesis technology: A veteran badly wounded in Afghanistan and left unable to walk has been able to take steps thanks to an exoskeleton custom-made by Israel-based company ReWalk and the support of brain researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

A professor at the university’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, named Carolyn Sparrey, further modified the exoskeleton for the war veteran using her own expertise in biomechanics.

Captain Trevor Greene, a former Canadian soldier, was viciously attacked by an axe-wielding teenager during a meeting with Afghan elders in 2006. His skull was split open, which left Greene unable to talk or walk.

He defied the initial prognosis of his doctors, who said that Greene would be in a vegetative state when he came out of his drug-induced coma. Then he stood, although his healthcare providers didn’t think he would. Now, after working with SFU’s scientists in British Columbia, Canada, his journey is bringing hope to many people around the world.

This past September, Greene took his first steps in public in what has been dubbed the Iron Man Suit. After he walked across the stage at the Surrey campus, Greene told media that the suit is amazing: “You watch movies like Iron Man and it’s just Hollywood, but this is real.”

While exoskeletons have been used for patients who have suffered spinal injuries, Greene’s healthcare professionals say he is the first brain-injured person to use the specially-designed device in order to walk. The hope is that walking with the exoskeleton will help his brain and muscle memory, re-establishing the connections from his brain to the muscles in his limbs so that his body will remember how to walk the way he did before the traumatic incident during his deployment nine years ago.

The possibilities afforded by this and other recent advances in prosthesis technology give hope to people who face physical limitations after illness, accident, trauma, or due to congenital conditions.

Greene told reporters who witnessed his public demonstration that it felt great to be walking again: “To be doing that independent movement, even under power, is fabulous.”

The Afghanistan veteran has an ambitious goal: he hopes to be able to hike to the Base Camp on Mount Everest. A tattoo of the Himalayas on his arm reminds him of this goal as he works hard with the university research team.

The cost of this futuristic technology is beyond the means of most veterans or civilians. The Royal Canadian Legion, the country’s largest veterans and community service organization, raised the $120,000 needed to pay for the motorized exoskeleton for Greene. However the scientific advancements that are made when developing new technology often spark the improvements of more common prosthetics, ultimately creating benefits for larger groups. Our team at Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics is inspired by the continual advancements in the industry and excited about the opportunities they may create for our patients.

Veterans and others in Michigan requiring prosthetic services can count on the friendly expert team at Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics. We have operated in Michigan since 1955 and have more than 20 locations in Michigan including Traverse City, Petoskey, Cadillac, and Grand Rapids. Not only do we accept a wide variety of health insurance plans, but we have the flexibility to work out extended payment plans for clients.

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