Update- ReWalk helps paraplegics walk

August 26, 2009 8:47:28 PM PDT
In June, Moss Rehab. at Albert Einstein Healthcare unveiled the ReWalk. It's a medical device that helps paraplegics walk. Action News follows the first U.S. patient enrolled in the trial.

Nearly five years ago, Alysse Einbender, of Wyncote, Pennsylvania went from being a very active mother of two, to having to learn to live without the use of her legs.

"It was kind of hard at first seeing her like that," Jonah, her 12-year-old son said.

Alysse suffered a spinal stroke and a slow bleed that left her paralyzed from the waist down. But since then, she's overcome a lot of obstacles, and with the help of her sons, Evan and Jonah, she's become stronger both physically and emotionally.

"The biggest lesson I've learned through all of this is how to ask for help and how to feel okay about it," Alysse said.

And recently Alysse has also gotten help from a new device called the ReWalk. She is the first patient in the U.S. enrolled in a trial to test the ReWalk. The device was unveiled in June at Moss Rehab. in Elkins Park.

Dr. Albert Esquenazi, the director of the trial said "she's learning to lean forward and take a step, lean forward and take the next step."

The ReWalk has four motors, a computer controller and a battery pack. Radi Kaiuf of Israel has been using one for more than a year. He can now vary his speed and go up steps.

Jonah called the ReWalk "a bundle of hope."

Still Alysse admits there's a huge learning curve but she is making progress. Action News caught up with her several weeks into the training. She had improved her balance and is lengthening her strides. She says what she likes best is standing.

"I mean I'm taller than you. It's not very often I get to be taller than anybody," she said.

The hope is to bring ReWalk to the market within two to three years. But the idea isn't to get all patients out of their wheelchairs, it's to give them an option.

"So if you were to go shopping, it may be much more convenient to do that in a wheelchair but if you needed to stand up and take a few steps in the supermarket for example you could do that without any trouble," Dr. Esquenazi explained.

Alysse says the ReWalk will keep her bones and muscles in shape. Until now all she had was a stander to help her get exercise but many people in wheelchairs have nothing. If there's ever a treatment discovered that can restore her body, her legs will be ready.

Her son Evan is hoping stem cells will bring a cure. He is starting college in the fall and plans to study mechanical engineering. As an eighth-grade project he made his mother a wheelchair prototype that can be moved with one arm so she could pour her coffee and then still carry it to the table.

While her family holds onto that hope for a cure,Alysse is hoping her involvement with the ReWalk trial will be the first step to something bigger.

"I love the idea of this being able to affect more than just a couple of us," she said.

Moss Rehab. will enroll 12 patients into the trial. They already have 150 applications, however not everyone is a candidate.

For more information, visit www.insidemossrehab.org

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