Archive for the ‘Physical/Mobility/Medical Disability’ Category

ReWalk with Glee

This, the second season, of Fox’s hit show Glee has seen Artie become a football player (he and his teammates cleverly deciding to use Artie and his wheelchair as a battering ram on the field), and last week we saw him stand thanks to a wish to Santa from Brittany (who still believes ^_^), and the use of an ingenious robotic system called the ReWalk.


Kevin McHale as Artie from the hit Fox show Glee. Image via Google search.

Since first airing, the show’s Artie character has been a large source of praise and debate, being both praised for the show’s topical content on some very big social issues regarding disability to ctiticisms for not choosing an actor who is in real life a paraplegic.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, last week’s episode, A Very Glee Christmas (here’s a temporary link to watch the full episode), featured a unique device called the ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Founded in 2001 and located in Haifa’s MATAM hi-tech industrial park, Argo operated, until end of 2007, under the auspices of the TechnionSeed (formerly the Technion Incubator), part of the Technion – Israel’s renowned Institute of Technology. The ReWalk is the company’s flagship of innovative development of walk restoration devices for people with lower limb disabilities. The product offers an ambulation alternative to wheelchair users, enabling paralyzed people to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. Click here to read more on the ReWalk and how it works.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image via ARGO.

The ReWalk is a wearable, motorized quasi robotic suit that provides user-initiated mobility. Through leveraging advanced motion sensors, some sophisticated robotic control algorithms, on-board computers, real-time software, actuation motors, some composite materials, and good ole’ fashion rechargeable batteries, the ReWalk creates movement through sublte changes in the user’s center of gravity and upper-body movements.

Some of the benefits to this ultra-nifty device:

this user participation in mobility brings tangible health and emotional benefits. ReWalk™ is not just a vertical wheelchair – ReWalk™ restores the element of control over mobility so lacking for wheelchair users.

As any sedentary wheelchair user can attest, life in a wheelchair carries a hefty healthcare price tag. Serious problems with the urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems are common, as well as osteoporosis, pressure sores and other afflictions.

By maintaining users upright on a daily basis, and exercising even paralyzed limbs in the course of movement, ReWalk™ alleviates many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use. In addition to relieving suffering, this has a real impact on healthcare costs – cutting yearly expenses almost in half, and enabling both insurers and individuals to redirect funds to other avenues.

Read more on the ReWalk here.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image courtesy ARGO.

The ReWalk not only has possibilities for personal mobility, its use would also drastically cut the need and cost of owning standing devices, stair lifts, bed lifts, and other mobility assistance apparatus or even the need of owning expensive powered wheelchairs. For theraputic institutions, the ReWalk has potential as a theraputic or physical training device, used for intensive functional locomotion therapy, and could replace the use of expensive mechanized gait trainers.

The ReWalk is designed for all day usage and requires the user to have the ability to use hands and shoulders and have a healthy cardiovascular system and bone density.

Videos of the ReWalk in action (other than its appearance in Glee ^_^), as well as some videos of its media coverage, are available on ARGO’s website.


Augie Nieto, the CEO of ALS Research

Augie Nieto

Augie Nieto laughs after his labrador, Hazel, jumps up on to his lap.
All images in this post courtesy The Orange County Register; ph. Leonard Ortiz

The September/October 2010 issue of Neurology Now has an awesome article on Augie Nieto, proclaimed the CEO of ALS Research. Co-founder of Life Fitness, a successful exercise equipment company, Nieto was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2004 at the age of 47.

The article is fantastic and delves into the details of the disease, Augie’s approach to marketing research on the disease and his use of his business acumen to help raise awareness and research funds (dubbed Augie’s Quest), and what research has found out about this disease, the new model organizations and labs are using to research the disease and Augie’s goals for ALS for the future.

Read the full article here at, or download the printable PDF version.

Aside from all the good information in the article, what caught our eye was, of course, the technology Augie utilizes to communicate, and even used to write a book.

Augie Nieto foot control

Augie controls his wheel chair mounted computer by using his toes and feet. The button on the left is used for a left-click and the right scroll wheel controls the cursor. The nautical themed board was made especially for Augie by the man that refinished his boat.

Augie Nieto foot control

With his feet in toe socks Augie selects letters on his computer screen to construct sentences which allows Augie to "speak" with a voice synthesizer. Augie wrote his latest book, "Reciprocity Incorporated", by using his toes to type out the words.

Augie and Lynn Nieto

Augie and Lynne Nieto chat in their Corona del Mar home. Augie has just finished his latest book, "Reciprocity Incorporated."

Augie Nieto

Using only his toes and feet Augie Nieto types out a sentence on the forward facing screen on his wheel chair mounted computer.
Ph. Leonard Ortiz for The Orange County Register

To see more images from the same article as the ones shown here and to read the related article, “Augie just wrote a book with his toes,” visit The Orange County Register or click here.

Augie is also the mastermind the technology seen above. Knowing that most people with ALS lose motor neurons in their peripheral nerves, Augie was also aware that certain types of ALS cause people with the disease to lose the ability to talk. With this knowledge, Augie was ahead of the curve, already thinking of ways to improve day-to-day living when his own voice began to falter. Finding out that his contractor, who was contracted to re-built Augie’s house for wheelchair accessibility, was a bit of a computer wiz, the two began developing TypeRight software, which allows people with ALS to type with their feet. Augie can type 40 words a minute using TypeRight.

Read the Neurology Now article, “The CEO of ALS Research,” to also read about a new device Nieto is currently testing that reads brain waves and translates them into data that can be read by a computer and translated into voice using voice-activated software.

Who doesn’t love a new home ^_^

Permobil moving

In order to serve your mobility needs, we are moving to our expanded state-of-the-art North American Headquarters on Thursday and Friday. We will re-open on Monday, November 8.

In case of emergency, please contact your local Sales Representative.

Physical Therapy Assistant students learn wheelchairs firsthand

Today two of our staff members got to sit in on a demonstration and lecture given to our Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) students by James, a local Rehabilitation Engineer for BarnesHealthcare.

James showed off some of the newest models of lightweight Rigid Wheelchairs from Quickie, the different options in wheels and armrests, and discussed some of the details and considerations that go into choosing the best wheelchair and accessories options for patients in physical therapy. He also demonstrated a model of fully reclining chair often used for cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and newly injured spinal cord injury patients in hospital/hospice care.

BarnesHealthcare Demo PTA Lab

BarnesHealthcare Rehab Engineer, James, gives lecture and demo to Physical Therapy Assistant students at GCCC. Photo courtesy Tamara Nguyen.

The image above was taken while James demonstrated the use of a machine which Rehab Engineers use for rapid prototyping of custom contoured cushions. He explained the necessity to create a chair that “touches” as much of the patient’s body as possible, important for both comfort, prevention of injury, and aid in the prevention of pressure sores. No patients were harmed in the demonstration, though the willing PTA student did get a thumbs up from one of her classmates for creating a well formed contour mold.

James also brought with him Sam, the local representative for Permobil, one of the industry’s most internationally recognized and used wheelchair, powerchair, and assistive devices manufacturer and distributors.

Guest lectures and demonstrations like this are just one of the many ways that Gulf Coast Community College sets themselves apart from other colleges in their endeavors to provide the most academically challenging and diverse education possible.

Panama City Beach participates in cutting edge animal stem cell therapy

Animal Stem Cell procedure

Image via Google search.

A Panama City Beach animal clinic participated in first ever in-clinic animal stem cell procedure in Florida.

Labrador, Hummer, and Doberman-Collie mix, Rascal, one suffering from hip dysplasia and the other from osteoarthritis, went in last Friday (Oct. 22nd) for an in-clinic adult stem cell therapy procedure that’s only been performed in five states, Florida included, since June.

Once mastered, the procedure only takes three hours to complete and is an outpatient procedure.

Dr. Mike Hutchison, the leading stem cell practitioner in the country explains in this article, the technology uses the body’s repair system by harvesting a little bit of fat from the animal, processing it, activating those stem/repair cells, and then giving them back to the animal. This therapy has been tested on cats, dogs, and horses, all with positive results across the board.

The in-clinic animal stem cell procedure costs between $1700-$1800, and is about half the cost of other procedures.

Dr. hutchison has expressed belief that in two to three years time, stem cell therapy will be standard of care procedure in every veterinary practice in North America.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Hummer’s and Rascal’s procedures went according to plan and both dogs were recovering at home by Friday evening.

Hill, Alexandra. “Panama City Beach Participates In Cutting Edge Pet Procedure.” WJHG News Channel 7 10 O’clock News. ABC. WJHG, Panama City, Florida, 22 Oct. 2010. Television.

From Segway to Bionic Arm, Dean Kamen is on the cutting edge of prosthesis technology

DEKA Luke Arm

The Luke Arm. Image via DEKA Research and Development Corporation.

Heralded as the most advanced and lifelike prosthetics, Dean Kamen (creator of the Segway) has promised us a real life bionic man/woman in this lifetime. The “Luke Arm”, affectionately dubbed after Luke Skywalker, grew out of DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which was created in 2005 to fund the development of prosthetic limbs for returning war-wounded soldiers.

The initiative led to the research, design, and creation of two prosthetic arms. One was for a four year, $30.4 million contract to be complete in 2009 and led by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labratory in Laurel, Md. The program sought to create a fully functioning, neurally controlled arm using technology that is still experimental. The other contract was awarded to DEKA Research and Development Corp., Kamen’s New Hampshire-based medical products company (best known for the Segway). DEKA’s contract was for only a 2-year initiative, costing $18.1 million, and was an effort to give amputees an advanced prosthesis that could be available immediately.

The video below is a short presentation of the Luke Arm in action with Dean Kamen and one of DEKA’s volunteer amputees.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Luke Arm by Inventor Deam Kamen, posted with vodpod

In 2008 DARPA gave the project a green light and the Luke Arm went into clinical trials. The agility of the Luke Arm, which is what makes this prosthesis such a remarkable and revolutionary creation, lends its credit to an enormous amount of circuitry inside the arm, which allows for 18 degrees of freedom. As opposed to other advanced prosthetic arms which only allowed for 3 degrees (should, elbow, and wrist) of freedom. Furthermore, the sheer magnitude of circuitry required to operate such dexterity forced its creators so create rigid-to-flex circuit boards that folded into origami-like shapes in order to fit inside the tiny spaces within the bionic arm.

The Luke also had to be modular in order to accommodate any level of amputation. Much like a vaccuum cleaner with its array of various attachments, the hand contains separate electronics, as does the forearm. Even the elbow is powered and receives is power from the electronics contained withing the upper arm. The shoulder is also powered and has been able to accomplish a level of reaching up that has never been possible in other prosthetics.

The wearer of the Luke Arm controlls its use through controllers in their shoes. For example, pushing a button with the left big toe will cause the arm to reach out, while pushing a button with the right toe will cause the arm to move back in. A small, vibrating motor, called a tactor, placed against the wearers skin provides the necessary feedback and changes its rate of vibration changes the grip strength that is exerted.

With continued funding from DARPA, Kamen’s group started clinical take-home trials in 2009. Hopes are that DEKA will be able to submit Luke Arm to the FDA for approval to sell the prosthetic in the near future.

Adee, Sarah. “Dean Kamen’s Luke Arm Prosthesis Readies for Clinical Trials.” IEEE Spectrum. IEEE Spectrum, Feb. 2008. Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

Double-amputee returns to the frontlines

Afghanistan Amputee Soldier Dan Luckett

In this Sept. 14, 2010 photo, U.S. Capt. Dan Luckett, 27, of Norcross, Ga., takes a seat at Combat Outpost Ashoqeh in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Luckett lost his left leg and part of his right foot in a bomb blast in Iraq in 2008. The Pentagon says 41 American amputee veterans are now serving in combat zones worldwide. Photo by Todd Pitman. Credit: Associated Press.

Technological advances have not only changed the way amputees can continue leading active lifestyles, it has also changed the sphere in which disability is regarded in the armed services. According to the Pentagon, to date, some 41 American amputee veterans now serve in combat zones worldwide.

The technological advances seen in artificial limbs has been a crucial factor in the return of soldiers, like Dan Luckett, to their careers in the armed forces. Luckett recently made headline news as a double amputee returning to the frontline using his new prosthetics: a removable carbon fiber plate that runs under the foot and fills the space where toes should be with hardened foam on his right foot, and a prosthetic leg on his left. You can read more on Luckett’s extensive injuries here.

While Luckett’s injuries were relatively clean cut, as he was spared any injury from shrapnel, rather having his leg and foot melted off by molten copper from an explosively formed penetrator (one supposes this is a message of being grateful for small miracles), doctors still urged Luckett to take his therapy on the new prosthetic leg slowly. By the second day of physical therapy with the prosthetic, Luckett walked out of the hospital on the prosthetic and a pair of crutches — more a battle of will between he and doctors, not a testament of miraculous healing. But by February 2009, nearly a year after he stubbornly walked out of the hospital with his new leg and foot, he had progressed so far that he could run a mile in eight minutes.

Luckett joined his unit at Fort Cambell and several months later had passed a physical fitness test in which he attained the Expert Infantryman’s Badge. The test required running 12 miles in under three hours with a 35-pound backpack. Luckett recognized the test as being crucial and, as he describes in an interview for this article, that if he could earn this badge that nothing could be said that he wasn’t capable of doing.

The Army agreed, and promoted him to captain.

In May of this year, Luckett deployed to Afghanistan. While his fellow troops treat him no differently from any other soldier in the field with him, Luckett has earned a nickname while over there..though the nickname was given to him by a shocked group of Afghan soldiers. Upon taking a knee while on patrol, his pants leg rode up, revealing a part of his prosthetic limb to a group of nearby Afghan soldiers. One gave him the nickname the “One-legged Warrior of Ashoqeh.” Quite poetic — wonder what nickname they would have given him had they seen his foamy right foot!

Luckett keeps several prosthetic legs in his bunk, each designed for different tasks, each with a carbon fiber socket that attaches to his thigh. One is fitted with a tennis shoe for running while the other is fitted with a boot. Another, made from rust-proof aluminum, has a waterproof Croc for showering. But by far the most important prosthetic leg in his arsenal has a high-tech axle that allows him to move smoothly over uneven terrain while on patrols. Best part, his squad leader painted its toenails purple.

You can read more on Luckett, the even leading up to his injuries and the extent of the injuries themselves, as well as what his life is like with the new prosthesis on the frontlines in this article from the associated press.

Pitman, Todd. “Wounded in Iraq, Double-amputee Returns to War.” Yahoo!News. Associated Press, 25 Sept. 2010. Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

Laser Walking Stick for the blind is perhaps one science fair away from existence

Covert Affairs

Scene from Covert Affairs featuring Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) using a laserpoint walking stick. Image via, ph. by Steve Wilkie/USA Network

Last week’s post on the Braille Sense Plus QWERTY Notetaker was inspired by its use on the new USA Network series “Covert Affairs”. In the show, the technology used by Auggie, a CIA agent blinded during his tour in Iraq. But this certainly isn’t the only cool bit of technology that Auggie (played by Christpher Gorham) has used on the show, and writers and producers of the show promise it won’t be the last.

Another assistive device that Auggie uses is a laser pointer walking stick. This nifty piece of gadgetry is a laser ranging system (like radar but using lasers). Lasering out in a grid pattern, the laser detects objects, obstacles, stairs, curbs, etc., and relays the information to the user with audible tones and tactile information, such a vibrations. The laser ranging system works by sending out a pulse of beams that time how long it takes the pulses to reflect back [Source].

Sounds like quite an amazing little bit of technology doesn’t it? Well, it is…or, at least it would be if it existed. As Christopher Gorham reveals in in this interview with Media Blvd Magazine. That is to say, Auggie’s cool laser walking cane doesn’t exist, but the technology is there.

Laser Cane

The Laser Cane, available at

For instance, the Laser Cane (shown left) is one of the first types of walking canes to begin utilizing laser technology. Designed specifically to adress the walking needs of individuals with various neurological conditions, such as: Parkinson’s, ALS, Stroke, PSP, Multiple Sclerosis, Brain Injuries, Balance Disorders, and MSA, the Laser Cane utilizes laser technology to provide a target to step over, helping to overcome freezing episodes. What this means is, the beam creates a visual “obstacle” which forces the individual to life their foor up and over the beam, reducing the individuals tendency to drag, shuffle, or otherwise teeter on their feet.

But this Laser Cane doesn’t provide any assistance for the blind and certainly isn’t anything like the device that Auggie uses, right. So where’s that good stuff? Its existence is perhaps in the very near future with the laser walking cane developed by three Palestinian teenagers from the rufugee city Nablus. Their incredible invention can be seen in the news story below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A “life-changing” invention from the West Bank, posted with vodpod

America’s Got Talent Top 10: Christina & Ali

We watched Christina and Ali grow with each performance as they competed on the Summer’s hit show America’s Got Talent. The girls made it into the top 10, their Semi-finals performance beating out that of Connor Doran’s indoor kite-flying performance. Below is their performance in America’s Got Talent Top 10, singing “I Love You, I Do”:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Christina & Ali, posted with vodpod

This was Christina and Ali’s final performance; they did not move on to America’s Got Talent Top 4. But we wish Christina and Ali all the best as they continue forward in their lives and continue their advocacy and awareness for cystic fibrosis.

MasterChef America

Masterchef America

Masterchef America via Fox Broadcasting

Famed chef Gordon Ramsey took MasterChef, a wildly popular show on the BBC in the UK, as well as Australia and New Zealand, to America, capping off the last of Fox Broadcasting’s summer line up. If you didn’t keep up with the show as it was airing, no worries — full episodes of the show can be watched at with limited commercial interruption and finished in only a short 8 episodes.

Having its first run in America , the contestants were as diverse as the food they cooked. This years competition featured Jennifer, a homemaker with two special needs children, and Darrell who was born with Ectrodactyly, sometimes referred to as “Lobster-claw Syndrome.”

Both contestants only made is as far as the preliminary tryouts, but you can see them in action in the episodes Auditions Part 1 & 2 at

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