Friday 19 January 2018

Emotional moment of hope for paralysed jockey Jonjo Bright with robotic 'ectoskeleton'

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It was a technological miracle straight off the pages of the Bionic Man. But it was also a deeply emotional moment of sheer hope for injured jockey Jonjo Bright and people like him.

The 20 year old from Co Antrim suffered devastating injuries when he was left paralysed following a fall from a horse during a Point to Point in March 2013.

But Jonjo always vowed to walk again. And today, he did - with the help of a special robotic 'ectoskeleton' suit.

His parents joyfully counted every single one of the 37 painstaking steps their son was able to take, as as the suit was unveiled at the RACE Academy in Kildare town.

For injured student, Jack Kavanagh from Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, who was paralysed from the chest down after crashing into a wave while on holiday in August 2012, it was his third chance to don the suit.

It is now hoped that 17 of the Ekso suits can be purchased for Ireland so that they can be put in regular gyms to allow people with spinal injuries and strokes to rebuilt their lives and train like regular gym members, rather than as 'patients.'

The wearable Ekso suit, allows people who have been paralysed through injury or stroke to stand upright and through motors and hydraulics walk around and, crucially, to build up the muscles so that they can work towards the goal of walking unaided when medical breakthroughs finally allow it.

"It was brilliant," said Jonjo, looking elated though pale after his efforts.

"I didn't expect to be able to use it."

"This is a huge step forward - this would be the biggest  step for me so far," he said.

"If that's the future, that's a huge thing for me."

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