Gene Laureano is an Army veteran and a native of Bronx. He got paralyzed from waist-down back in 2001 when he fell 20’ from the ladder in Manhattan. In his words; ‘I felt like Wiley Coyote. The ground just fell out from under me.’ He is 51 years old now and went through a 12-hour surgery after the incident. He said he woke up to a feeling of euphoria but soon was given the news that he won’t be able to walk again. ‘At the beginning, you’re like, so I guess this is going to be life. But then, after the shock goes by, it’s like: ‘Screw this. There’s got to be more to this,’ Laureano says.
In 2012, after years of attempts to somehow find his escape from the wheelchair, he was introduced to the answer he had been searching for. He saw ReWalk in the hospital and describes it as; ‘a robot with sneakers’. ReWalk is a type of computerized exoskeleton and in January 2013, Laureano admitted himself to the clinical trial of the robot. And so came the historical day for him when after a decade of being told that he won’t be able to ever walk again, he walked. He says; ‘The day I stood up, I knew I was about to cross the threshold from impossible to possible. It was a moment for me.’
ReWalk is an invention that comes from Dr. Amit Goffer, a quadriplegic, who is the founder of Argo Medical Technologies. He started this project back in 1998 and since then, the Re-Walkers have taken this invention to amazing places. One of the Re-Walkers, Claire Lomas (a female paraplegic) completed the London Marathon while wearing a ReWalk. The biggest breakthrough, however, was achieved when a few weeks ago this robotic gadget became the first and as of now, the only exoskeleton that has been approved by the FDA for personal use. There are other similar devices out there but they are limited to research centers, whereas ReWalk is out there in the market and can be actually bought for a price of $69,500.
The device weighs about 50 pounds and allows the user walk at a speed of 1Mph that is less than normal human speed of 3Mph. According to Dr. Spungen says; ‘They have to improve the device a little more before they can increase the speed.’
As of now, Argo is working on a device that will allow even quadriplegic people to walk. Dr. Goffer says; ‘My time (to walk) will come, I’m patient enough for that.’