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Technology helping Oklahoma veterans get back on their feet

OKLAHOMA CITY – Technology is helping Oklahoma City veterans get back on their feet.

Recently, the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System began using a robotic exoskeleton device to provide paralyzed patients with a unique form of physical therapy. In fact, officials say it is even helping them stand and walk again.

While he was deployed in Iraq, Johnnie Williams III suffered a spinal cord injury. In May, Williams used the exoskeleton bionic suit to walk again for the first time in 16 years.

“Everyone was bursting with pride and joy for Johnnie,” said Physical Therapist Whitney Anderson, who witnessed the event. “It was a priceless moment to watch a true hero regain his independence. We were thrilled to be part of the effort to give something back to someone who given so much to serve his country.”

Officials say the exoskeleton device straps tightly around the user's torso with supports strapped to the legs. Both the hip and knee joints are driven by a computer-controlled motor.

Users are then able to balance themselves using walkers or crutches.

“There is no better place for Veterans with a spinal cord injury or disorder to get care than the Oklahoma City VA,” said Susan Buff, Chief, Physical Therapy Department. “We currently have four certified physical therapists who are trained in the bionic exoskeletons approved by the FDA for home use, as well as the Indego and ReWalk systems.”

“It is a unique and rewarding experience to see how the Veterans using these devices change in terms of confidence, physical health, and ability to do things we take for granted. Things like standing to drink at a water fountain, grocery shopping, or going on a walk with their families,” said Anderson.

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