Thanks to a robotic-assisted physical therapy method underway at a clinic housed in the Health and Human Sciences Building at Western Carolina University, a local man is getting back on his feet - literally.
The innovative device is one in a series of products by ReWalk, a medical device company that designs and develops mobility products for individuals with lower limb disabilities. While there are other manufacturers and systems, WCU is one of only two ReWalk training facilities in North Carolina.
“It is a robotic exoskeleton that enables manipulation of step rate, speed and mechanical features of hip, knee and ankle mobility,” said Josh Jones, adjunct instructor and physical therapist. “For the patient, it takes a clinician working one-on-one with them on both the technological side of training and the usual physical therapy aspects, including strength, balance, cardiovascular endurance and functional problem solving.”
The patient is Daylan Carver, a 21-year-old from Graham County, injured in a 2018 motorcycle accident while avoiding a vehicle towing a trailer on a narrow mountain road. “The goal is for Daylan to be able to have this device both at home and to use it for exercise and ambulation in the community,” said Ashley Hyatt, assistant professor of physical therapy. “He has no motor use of his legs and is now able to walk more than 1,000 feet by utilizing this device. That’s outstanding, especially for his level of injury.”
From his home on Yellow Creek near Robbinsville, Carver said the device has opened up opportunities for him and that he is determined to achieve physical improvement with its help.
“Learning to use ReWalk has been like learning to walk again,” he said. “Using it keeps me active, helps my body through exercise and helps me all around. I push myself, but I have help and support, and that makes a real difference. Josh and Ashley encourage me, and it’s a great experience. It’s making a big difference in my life.”
Carver’s robotics therapy is coordinated through Harris Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy, one of several public clinics located on the ground floor of WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building, with support from health care professions students and faculty.
“Ultimately, I think this work gives a glimpse into the future of what robotics could do for patients who suffer from any number of physical ailments that might affect their ability to walk,” said Jones. “My hope is that - with the credentialing and training - we will be able to finally offer our rural community and the western reaches of the state another option in improving the quality of life and functional mobility.”
For more information on WCU’s Department of Physical Therapy program’s clinical engagement and public service, call 828-227-2290.
Location: Cullowhee, Biltmore Park
Time to Complete: Full-Time, 33-months
Credit Hours: 111 credits
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