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Walk This Way

WCU’s robotic-assisted physical therapy helps young man onto his feet

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.

Robotic assisted
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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.”

Ashley Hyatt

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.”

Ashley Hyatt PT

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.”

Ashley Hyatt

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.”

Rewalk Ashley Hyatt

For more information on WCU’s Department of Physical Therapy program’s clinical engagement and public service, call 828-227-2290.

About the Physical Therapy Program

Program Overview

Location: Cullowhee, Biltmore Park

Time to Complete: Full-Time, 33-months

Credit Hours: 111 credits

State-of-the-art facilities

100% First-time Pass Rate

Learn More About the Program

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