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The exoskeleton helps Carlson become mobile again

For Brian Carlson, a preschool teacher from Wahoo, returning to his normal life after contracting COVID-19 wasn't what he thought it would be.

But as one of the first patients on the Bryan West campus to benefit from the use of new technology, his road to recovery looked different than others.

When Carlson was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November 2021, he became very ill and developed Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The rare complication that some people develop from COVID-19 derails the body's immune system, causing it to mistakenly attack muscles and nerves.

As Carlson's health improved and he regained his ability to breathe, speak and move, he began using Bryan's exoskeleton to regain full mobility.

The Eksoskeleton is a computer-controlled walking frame that supports a patient's body as they learn to walk again.

Just a few months before the 52-year-old Carlson contracted COVID-19, Bryan West received the Eksoskeleton as a donation from the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Since then, the new technology has been credited with speeding the recovery of more than 40 of Bryan West's patients.

While they want to help more patients, Barb Wagner, lead physical therapist at Bryan West Rehab, said there are requirements patients must meet to use the Eksoskeleton.

"It usually only works in patients with certain injuries and in patients who are about 5 feet to 6 feet 4 inches tall and weigh less than 220 pounds," Wagner said.

Some things that may qualify a patient for use of the Eksoskeleton are gait deficits due to stroke, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré, and injuries to the brain or spine.

Although the mobility time of patients using the Eksoskeleton varies by injury, research shows that the return to mobility is faster than with traditional gait training.

With different settings, the Eksoskeleton is a customizable technology that reteaches a correct walking pattern to reduce compensatory injuries.

"Adaptable motor support works for different levels of impairment that can self-adjust to provide the support the patient needs," Wagner said.

One of the great features of the device is that its software allows physicians to visualize patient progress and set goals for future sessions.

Although the device may look heavy, Wagner says it is completely self-sustaining and adds no additional weight to the patient.

The fairly new technology is one that the Fraternal Order of Eagles has been donating to hospitals since 2017.

It has donated six Eksoskeletons across the country, three of which have been given to hospitals in Nebraska.

Zack Timmons, director of marketing for the Fraternal Order of Eagles, says it hasn't been easy to gather such donations in light of the pandemic.

"It's already a process to find hospitals with the infrastructure to work with Eksoskeleton, and with COVID-19, it's not such a big focus for hospitals," Timmons says.

A year after Carlson lost his mobility, he returned home to his family, started hiking again and teaching preschoolers.

"It can be scary to get used to at first, but I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to just try it. It helped me get back to normal sooner than I thought," he said.

Source: Exoskeleton helps Carlson regain mobility (wahoo-ashland-waverly.com) (30.12.2022)

Tom Illauer

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