Ashley Barnes was 35 years old when doctors told her she would never walk again.
A botched spinal procedure in 2014 paralyzed her from the waist down. The Tyler, Tex., resident had been an avid runner, clocking six miles daily when not home with her then-9-year-old autistic son, whom she raised alone. Life in a wheelchair was not an option.
“I needed to be the best mom I could be,” Barnes said. “I needed to be up and moving.”
Nearly everyone knows about ReWalk, the revolutionary robotic exoskeleton invented in Israel that allows paraplegics to stand, walk, and even navigate steps and run marathons.
Ironically, ReWalk inventor Amit Goffer cannot use his own device because he is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down following an accident in 1997. But last summer he was finally able to leave home in an upright position, riding the most recent of his inventions — the alpha model of the UPnRIDE.
The first commercial model, UPnRIDE 1.0, will be unveiled at the Rehacare International trade fair in Düsseldorf at the end of September.
American insurance providers are being faced with an interesting health care debate: Should walking be considered a need?
At the center of this debate are exoskeletons — motorized devices that allows those with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and walk. So far, the ReWalk system is the only exoskeleton in the United States that has been approved by the FDA. However, it costs close to $70,000.
ReWalk announced that a commercial health plan will provide coverage for a personal exoskeleton system.