Good Shepherd Becomes Third Health-Care Organization in U.S. to Have EKSO Exoskeleton

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based innovator in the rehabilitation of physical and cognitive disabilities, today received the third Ekso bionic exoskeleton in the United States. Ekso (formerly called eLEGS) is a wearable, bionic robot by Ekso Bionics that allows those with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. 

Ekso is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered exoskeleton that is strapped over the user’s clothing with Velcro and clips. The combination of motors and sensors, along with patient assist with balance and body positioning, allow the user to walk over ground with an efficient reciprocal gait pattern. The device can be adjusted in a few minutes to fit most people weighing 220 pounds or less, and between 5’2” and 6’2”. 

Good Shepherd purchased an Ekso and is using it in therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.  Good Shepherd’s Ekso also will be available for “maintenance” use by patients who complete their therapy program.

For Kevin Oldt of Allentown and Justin Ubel of Pen Argyl, that means experiencing the simple joy of walking. Both Oldt and Ubel trialed the previous generation of Ekso (then eLEGS) when it was at Good Shepherd last May.

“I didn’t remember how tall I am,” said Oldt, 45, when he stood for the first time in the Ekso. Oldt’s spinal cord injury occurred about 10 years ago during a snow-mobile accident. He has been preparing for the return of Ekso by keeping his upper body strong with regular gym workouts and stretching and moving in Good Shepherd’s warm-water pool twice a week.

“I look forward to standing next to my girlfriend – looking at her eye-to-eye,” says Ubel, 23, who is a paraplegic from a vehicle accident. “I miss the fluid motion of walking, and Ekso allows me to take those steps.”

From March 14-16, Kevin, Justin and several other patients with lower-extremity weakness or paralysis will work with Good Shepherd’s outpatient neuro-rehabilitation therapists and the Ekso Bionics staff to train with the new technology. After that training, Ekso will be ready for regular therapy and maintenance use at Good Shepherd.

Unveiled in October 2010, and six years in development by Ekso Bionics (formerly Berkeley Bionics) was #3 in CNN’s “Top Ten Innovations of 2010,” #2 in Wired’s “Top Ten Gadgets of 2010,” and one of TIME’s “50 Best Inventions of 2010.”

“When we began selecting the first 10 charter centers, Good Shepherd was an obvious choice for Ekso Bionics due to its position as a national leader in the early adoption and use of rehabilitation technology,” says Kolbeinn Bjornsson, vice president of sales, Ekso Bionics.

"Good Shepherd is proud to be one of the first post-acute care facilities in the country to have an Ekso bionic exoskeleton," said Sally Gammon, president and CEO, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network. "This is a hopeful time for people with lower limb impairments, and we at Good Shepherd are excited to be able to offer Ekso to patients in the Lehigh Valley region.”

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network: Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Good Shepherd is a nationally recognized rehabilitation leader, offering a continuum of care for people with physical and cognitive disabilities and specializing in assistive and rehabilitation technology. Good Shepherd utilizes one of the nation’s largest cadre of rehabilitation technologies to facilitate and guide motor function and control.

Ekso Bionics: Formerly known as Berkeley Bionics, Ekso is headquartered in Berkeley, California, with offices in London, UK, and  is a designer and maker of wearable robots, or exoskeletons, that physically augment humans.