University College Cork student, Eabha Wall, has been accepted as a suitable candidate for the US ExoSym device. It was originally used by wounded soldiers. Eabha (22) requires the device for both of her legs and will need €21,000 to complete the fitting process. She spends a lot of time in a wheelchair and would like to be mobile every day.
In an interview on Cork’s Red FM, Eabha said the ExoSym would help her to cope with the constant endurance test that is walking: “The ExoSym was developed by a team in Seattle and we have nothing like them in Ireland. It is a new technology, which is a hybrid between a prosthetic and a brace. So, they are designed to redistribute how I would weight bear, which would help me walk better.”
Eabha says that she is not sure how much longer she can keep up with her studies without the assistance of the device: “In the last two years, I have definitely struggled more. This is more important, for me, now, than ever, because I am going into my final year of biochemistry.
“I really want to go into a career in research. It has always been my plan. I want to be able to help people. For me to be able to do that, I need to be able to work in a lab. To do this, I have to be able to stand and move around a lab. This is something I can’t do. I use a wheelchair part-time and these could give me the strength and stamina I need to be able to work in a lab and to do so without pain.”
The carbon-fibre ExoSym braces consist of a plate customised to the shape of the foot and two struts leading up the back of the calf, connecting to a support holster below the knee.
As you step down, the brace redirects weight and energy away from the joints and stores it in the carbon fibre, kind of like a spring.
When the user pushes off, the energy shoots back up the struts, helping them to walk, run, or jump.
Since 2009, the device has enabled hundreds of people to regain the use of their legs while avoiding chronic pain.
The ExoSym was created by Ryan Blanck, who is based in Gig Harbor, Seattle, Washington. The cost of the device and knee section for both legs is €18,500. Eabha will also require €2,500 to travel to Seattle for the fitting. She hopes to make the journey Stateside in January, 2018.
Eabha adds that she is not hoping for miracles: “I don’t expect to run marathons. I simply want to live a life without pain, and free myself from some constraints that my disability brings. Think less Usain Bolt, more Forrest Gump.”