A paralyzed pregnant woman completed a half marathon while wearing a motion-controlled exoskeleton, finishing the race in five days of determination and high tech innovation. Claire Lomas, a 36-year-old from Leicestershire in England, ran 13 miles from Newcastle to South Shields with the help of the ReWalk suit, a robot suit that helps her to walk with the aid of crutches.
“It’s taken some learning. It’s not just physical work, it’s the concentration with every step,” Lomas told the BBC on Sunday. “It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralysed to make it walk.”
Lomas was paralyzed after she was thrown off a horse in Nottinghamshire back in 2007, leaving her without feeling below her chest. Lomas, who is 16 weeks pregnant, suffered from morning sickness during the run, but still managed to complete approximately three miles per day.
“I had quite a lot of morning sickness,” she told the BBC. “I didn’t have the lead up I wanted, but I really did not want to lose this opportunity”
The ReWalk suit helps paralyzed people walk again through a series of sensors designed to enable walking. Sensors attached to the upper body allow Lomas to control the suit, while sensors on the feet detect when the foot is lifted. The suit does not, however, fully maintain balance, and wearers must use crutches. The suit is powered by a battery pack that lasts approximately eight hours.
Although the technology is still in its infancy, ReWalk is not the only exoskeleton on the market. The SuitX Phoenix, which retails for $40,000, is slightly less advanced than the ReWalk as it uses a series of buttons on the crutches to enable user control.
Future plans for exoskeletons include ones like Lockheed Martin’s Fortis, which allows the use of heavy power tools for extended periods of time. The XOS 2 exoskeleton, targeted at military usage, takes things a step further by enabling users to lift over 200 pounds.