Claire Lomas of Leicestershire, England has just completed the Great North Run, the biggest half marathon in the UK, despite being both paralyzed and 16 weeks pregnant.
Wearing a bionic suit by ReWalk Robotics and assisted by her husband Dan, Claire reached the finish line in 5 days. The course runs for 21 km (13.1 miles) from Newcastle to South Shields.
36-year-old Claire was paralyzed after a horse riding accident 9 years ago. Prior to the incident, she was a professional event rider. During an event, she was thrown from her horse breaking her neck, cracking her ribs and back, and also punctured a lung.
Like a fairy godmother granting a wish, the ReWalk exoskeleton made moving again a reality for Claire . Equipped with motion sensors, the suit makes it possible for users to lift their own legs. The sensors are located on the feet, the hips, and the upper body, giving the user control over movement. Claire also used crutches to assist with keeping her balance.
While ReWalk was an integral part of her achievement, Claire didn’t just sit back and relax. She needed intense focus and concentration to operate the bionic suit, and went through rigorous training. “It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralyses to make it walk,” Claire said. Even more, carrying a 16-week old baby in her womb didn’t make it any easier. On top off all of the obstacles she had to overcome, she also battles morning sickness over the course of the training. Understandably, Claire said she was “over the moon” in finishing.
The ReWalk is a remarkable achievement in the treatment and rehabilitation of paralysis patients. The company promises patients the “…most precise fit, highest walking speed and most natural gait of any powered exoskeleton.” As this is not Claire’s first marathon achievement, she finished the London Marathon in 2012, her story stands as a beacon of hope and excitement for future possibilities this technology will enable.