THIS MIGHT BE the most amazing video you see today – blind adventurer Mark Pollock, paralysed from the waist down in an accident 18 months ago, ‘walking’ with the aid of a robotic device.
Pollock, who became the first blind Irish man to walk to the South Pole in early 2009, is currently in San Diego in the US to investigate the latest medical and technological advances in the area of paralysis and spinal injury. He almost died an accidental fall in the summer of 2010 and his body was ravaged by infections and illness which made his recuperation a massive physical and mental challenge.
However, visiting Ekso Bionics in Berkeley, California on Monday, Pollock tested a robotic exoskeleton which can help “power” paralysed limbs and simulate the experience of walking. The physiotherapist leading the session said that only a third of people he works with in such situations manage to move with the electronic brace and crutches in their first practice session. Mark Pollock joined their ranks on Monday, as you will see in this inspirational video:
Writing in his blog later that evening, Pollock said that the expectation had been that he would find it even more challenging than most to operate the exoskeleton because he could not see the movement to judge his balance on it. “I was scared,” he wrote, “Not of the walking or chances of falling. Rather I was scared that my blindness would stop me from being part of something that I believe is one of my best chances of walking again.” Read his description of the session and what it felt like to stand tall on the exoskeleton here.
In an interview with TheJournal.ie last November, Pollock said that he is pursuing the most up-to-date options for possible recovery, including aggressive physical therapy being pioneered in the States. He said that he hopes that if he can then bring that experience and information back to Ireland. He said:
I can’t feel or move my legs but what I want to do is explore the possibilities by doing it myself and explore the possibilities that aggressive physical therapy might present and bring that conversation back to the medical community in Ireland.