‘Iron men’ walk in high-tech skele­tons

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 4 China - By CANG WEI in Nan­jing and MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi

Two phys­i­cally chal­lenged men in wear­able ex­oskele­ton robotic equip­ment walked through some of China’s most fa­mous sites on a nine-day jour­ney to Bei­jing from the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion.

One of the men cov­ered 42.22 kilo­me­ters, slightly more than a full marathon, while the other man­aged 21.63 km.

The men, Shao Haipeng and Li Tao, walked in­ter­mit­tently and vis­ited key spots, in­clud­ing the an­cient city of Kash­gar, the Ter­ra­cotta War­riors in Xi’an and Bei­jing’s Tem­ple of Heaven. For ex­am­ple, they walked 6 km in Kash­gar on Nov 17 be­fore fly­ing to Xi’an.

Shao, 28, in­jured his spine in an ac­ci­den­tal fall last year and can­not stand or walk un­aided. Li, 40, was di­ag­nosed with myeli­tis — an in­flam­ma­tion of the spinal cord — and has been par­a­lyzed from the waist down since 2016.

The two men be­gan their jour­ney in Xin­jiang’s Kizilsu Kir­giz au­tonomous pre­fec­ture on Nov 15. The pair were ob­served the whole way by no­taries, whose job was to of­fi­cially cer­tify the dis­tance walked.

“Some peo­ple called us ‘iron men’ when they saw us in the wear­able robotic equip­ment,” Shao said. “Peo­ple in Xin­jiang are very pas­sion­ate and friendly. Strangers we met of­ten cheered us up.

“In Kash­gar, chil­dren picked wild flow­ers on the road­side and showed us the way. They were like an­gels. They made me ex­tremely happy.”

Li said that while it is dif­fi­cult for him to take even a small step, he had the con­fi­dence to com­plete the jour­ney and re­al­ize his dream.

“We walked to en­cour­age more peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties like ours,” he said. “We hope they will pull to­gether and re­turn to so­ci­ety.”

The wear­able de­vices, de­signed by Bei­hang Univer­sity, Jiangsu Prov­ince Hos­pi­tal and a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion robotics com­pany in Bei­jing, are the first ex­oskele­ton robotic de­vices to be cer­ti­fied by the Na­tional Med­i­cal Prod­ucts Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Hos­pi­tals us­ing the equip­ment first mea­sure a pa­tient’s body and ad­just the ex­oskele­tons ac­cord­ingly. Then they fas­ten the equip­ment tight to the waist, legs and arms. The process takes about three min­utes.

The speed and length of the pa­tient’s stride are en­tered into com­put­ers that are later fas­tened to the pa­tient’s back. A dis­abled per­son can de­pend on the robotics to lead their move­ments, but canes are also needed to main­tain bal­ance.

Each set of equip­ment costs 300,000 yuan ($43,200).

A num­ber of pa­tients in Xin­jiang have ben­e­fited from the equip­ment. Jelil Ma­mat, 39, had myeli­tis and was par­a­lyzed for five years.

On Wed­nes­day, he no­ticed that two other pa­tients in Kizilsu Kir­giz Peo­ple’s Hos­pi­tal were ex­er­cis­ing with strangelook­ing ex­oskele­tons. After con­sult­ing doc­tors, he asked to try the equip­ment the next day.

On Thurs­day, with the help of an ex­oskele­ton, the former car­pen­ter stood up for the first time in five years. His tear­ful wife and son hugged him and took pic­tures.

Ding Qiang, head of a med­i­cal team sent by Jiangsu prov­ince to as­sist in Xin­jiang, said two sets of equip­ment will be do­nated to Kizilsu Kir­giz Peo­ple’s Hos­pi­tal to help lo­cal pa­tients re­cover their mo­bil­ity.

Con­tact the writ­ers at cang­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn


Shao Haipeng (left) and Li Tao walk at the Olympic Park in Bei­jing on Sat­ur­day wear­ing their ex­oskele­ton robotic equip­ment. Shao com­pleted a dis­tance equiv­a­lent to a full marathon, while his com­pan­ion walked about half that.

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