DCU's Exoskeleton Programme - Colm's Story

Colm Costigan was a very active man, having ran four marathons and competing the Ring of Kerry, until he suffered a heart attack which left him unable to walk. Colm explains how DCU’s Exoskeleton Programme has helped him get back on his feet.

“I retired to Moneygall, County Offaly, with my wife two years ago after working as a paediatric consultant for the past 30 years in Dublin. We enjoyed the quiet life in the countryside and loved staying active with our family. While out cycling with my daughter one day, I began to feel really weak and tired. This had never happened before, so I knew something was wrong. I don’t remember getting off my bike, but I was later told that I had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Luckily, my daughter is a doctor, so she began to perform CPR and resuscitate me until the paramedics arrived. I was then airlifted to University Hospital Limerick where I had a stint placed in my heart. Unfortunately, due to a lack of oxygen, my spine was damaged and I lost all movement in my legs as a result.

I spent some time in ICU in University Hospital Limerick until I moved to the Mater Hospital in September 2018 and then to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire in November 2018. It was here that I found out about DCU’s Exoskeleton Programme.

My first time using the Exoskeleton was surreal. The suit got me to my feet, but I couldn’t find my balance at all. Since that first session, my balance has improved tenfold and my muscle recovery is also improving with every session.

“The Exoskeleton has helped me to build confidence in my walking abilities – I’ve even began walking with crutches more regularly. I try to mirror the movements of the Exoskeleton when walking with my crutches, so the more time spent in the Exoskeleton, the closer I am to walking again.”

 

Since my recovery, I have gone back to work as a paediatric consultant in Dublin and Cork. I’m still quite reliant on my wheelchair when at work, so this causes a few restrictions to my work. My main goal is to build enough strength in my legs to stand confidently at incubators to assess new-born babies, so every session in the Exoskeleton counts for me.

I wouldn’t be where I am today with DCU’s Exoskeleton Programme. After just six sessions walking in the suit, I’m able to stand straight and walk a reasonable distance with my crutches. I hope that I can return to fully completing my rounds in the hospitals as soon as possible, which I know would never be possible if it weren’t for my sessions walking in the Exoskeleton.”