On average, three people a week sustain a life-changing spinal cord injury (SCI) in Ireland, as a result of accidental injury or degenerative disease. The most common cause of traumatic injury is falls (55%) with partial paralysis the most common outcome. Access to skilled rehabilitation is vital to treat spinal cord injuries in order to maximise functioning, independence and overall wellbeing. Such rehabilitation enhances the survival, health and participation of people with spinal cord injuries in society.
DCU’s Exoskeleton Programme enables people who have reduced mobility due to paralysis to walk again wearing a robotic suit (exoskeleton) created by Ekso Bionics. Robotic rehabilitation with the physiotherapist-led service offers significant mental and physical benefits for individuals living with paralysis. Not only are they supported to walk again, but any secondary problems they suffer from, such as chronic pain, bowel accidents, painful spasms, bladder accidents and respiratory illness, are also improved from this therapy.
The programme was first launched in March 2019 and in the 2019/20 academic year, it facilitated 531 walking sessions for 38 individuals affected by paralysis, despite closures due to Covid-19. The benefits reported by service users have included: