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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020

VIDEO: This Corkman was paralysed from the chest down... but is going to walk a marathon

Nathan Kirwan is raising funds to keep the device in Ireland.

Updated 9.55am


A CATASTROPHIC SPINAL injury can be life-changing.

For Nathan Kirwan, he was left paralysed from the chest down after falling from a tree.

However, that isn’t stopping the Corkman from planning to walk a marathon this year.

Kirwan will use an advanced exoskeleton to take 55,000 steps around Cork city in an attempt to raise funds to keep the device in Ireland.

Some €150,000 is needed to buy the gym-based exoskeleton and keep it in Ireland, otherwise it will be returned to its manufacturer in October this year.

Source: Nathan Kirwan/YouTube

Exoskeletons, previously the stuff of science fiction, are now becoming more common. Their applications include allowing soldiers and builders carry heavy weights, to allowing those who have suffered stroke, MS or spinal cord injuries to walk again.

“Physical exercise is essential for everyone, especially wheelchair users, and the exoskeleton gives users the benefits of walking,” Kirwan said.

“Naturally enough it enhances blood flow, retains bone density, reduces muscle atrophy and promotes better bladder and bowel function. Users have reported being elated and having an enormous sense of well-being following use.”

The first time I saw it being used I thought, this makes sense. I need one as does everyone else in my situation.

The device to be used by Kirwan, named Lazarus, is the only one available to the public in Ireland, based at the Helpful Steps organisation in Cork. People have travelled from as far as France to use it.

Adventurer Mark Pollock, paralysed from the waist down, spent a year using a robotic set of legs to gather information on the effects it had on his body.

“My aim is to work with eksobionics to capture the data and then move it on to a more formal study to get some scientific analysis of what the benefits are to spinal patients,” he said.

By the time that they can get to the point where they can recommend how a patient should be using these to see a benefit, it could be 20 years on, so the research needs to begin now.

Details of how to donate are available here.

Read: This mechanical exoskeleton could help take the effort out of walking >

A year in robotic legs: paralysed adventurer hits new milestone >

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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