VET­ERAN TAKES $150K MA­CHINE FOR STROLL

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By David Olinger David Olinger: 303-954-1498, dolinger@den­ver­post.com or @dolingerdp

SoldierStrong, a non­profit ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing ad­vanced med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies to veter­ans, is sup­ply­ing the Den­ver VA with an ex­oskele­ton suit to study whether it can help brains as well as bod­ies.

Five years ago, a bomb ex­plo­sion in south­ern Afghanistan par­a­lyzed Army Sgt. Dan Rose from the chest down. Doc­tors said he would never walk again.

On Wed­nes­day, at the Depart­ment of Veter­ans Affairs med­i­cal cen­ter in Den­ver, he proved them wrong. With crutches and a bionic walk­ing ma­chine, the brown-bearded young man rose from his wheel­chair, strut­ted slowly across the au­di­to­rium with a metal­lic swoosh, pirou­et­ted and strut­ted back.

“It was crazy,” he said of stand­ing and walk­ing again. “See­ing peo­ple in the eye in­stead of the belly but­ton. It was awe­some.”

Now, the VA of­fice plans to study whether the psy­cho­log­i­cal boost Rose got from stand­ing upright can help veter­ans in Colorado suf­fer­ing from trau­matic brain in­juries.

Thanks to SoldierStrong, a non­profit ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing ad­vanced med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies to veter­ans, the Den­ver VA got the free ex­oskele­ton suit to study whether it can help brains as well as bod­ies. The com­puter-driven walk­ing ma­chine nor­mally costs $150,000 to $188,000.

The ex­oskele­ton, for­mally the Ekso GT de­vice, will be tried on about 30 veter­ans in wheel­chairs at first, and the VA hopes to have data by sum­mer on its po­ten­tial psy­cho­logic ben­e­fits.

“I see the psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal as be­ing con­nected,” said Lisa Bren­ner, a VA re­search psy­chol­o­gist and men­tal ill­ness clinic di­rec­tor.

The pro­gram will eval­u­ate “what it’s like for peo­ple to stand, talk to peo­ple eye to eye, par­tic­i­pate in life events,” she said. “The world’s set up for peo­ple who are stand­ing.”

Rose re­mem­bers one draw­back about stand­ing again for the first time in his home. He could see the top of his re­frig­er­a­tor cov­ered in dust.

Army Sgt. Dan Rose, as­sisted by Mike Glover, tries out the ex­oskele­ton suit at the Depart­ment of Veter­ans Affairs med­i­cal cen­ter in Den­ver on Wed­nes­day. Ken­neth D. Lyons, The Den­ver Post

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