Calling it a leg, hope and disposition lifter, Kevin Oldt demonstrated a high-tech Ekso Bionic exoskeleton device Wednesday at TaxSlayer Center, Moline.
The Genesis Foundation wants to buy a $225,000 model. It has received a $35,000 Scott County Regional Authority grant, but hopes it can collect the remaining money needed to buy the region's first exoskeleton device to save local patients from having to drive long distances for therapy.
Oldt, an Ekso "ambassador" from Pennsylvania, provided the demonstration.
"Ekso Bionics is the first exoskeleton company to receive FDA approval for, both, stroke and spinal cord injury gait training," regional sales manager KC Wennogle said.
Oldt suffered a snowmobile accident in Bradford, Pennsylvania, 18 years ago, when he was 34 years old, and was confined to a wheelchair for 13 years before he learned of the device. He's 52 now.
"Every toy chest has the best dump trucks," he said. "Now I get to play with the best dump truck around, and you always want to use the cutting edge in the toy chest."
It also helps him "stay out of the dumps" caused by depression often felt felt by accident victims, Oldt said.
"It's all about the hope it provides," he said. "If you don't have hope, you have nothing."
Ryan Taylor, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park, Davenport, where the bionic suit is destined for, will greatly benefit the mental health of patients.
"Absolutely," he said. "A patient’s mood and sense of well-being can substantially improve when the patient can get up and walk again using an exoskeleton.
“Many times the patients, maybe for the first time since their injury, get a big smile as they walk again," Taylor said.
The exoskeleton is not intended to replace therapy practices, but to add to the rehabilitation tools available, Taylor said.