Local rehab hospital uses bionic suit

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) - Midstate patients with neurological conditions and spinal cord injuries have a new option. Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital is using robotic exoskeleton technology.

"When I first had my injury, there was nothing out like this," said Kevin Oldt, who uses the EksoGT. "I would read comic books. I would see Iron Man. I would see the tin man. Anything with robotics was incredible, and I was thinking why didn't we do that 13 years ago?"

Oldt is paralyzed, but a bionic suit makes him feel like a superhero.

"The emotion to get up after 13 years of sitting was amazing," said Oldt.

The dad is now able to stand and walk with the help of the EksoGT. It's a robotic suit for people with spinal cord injuries or neurological conditions.

"It has helped me in strengthening my legs, staying out of the hospital with bladder infections, able to keep my muscles limber, ankles moving, my knees moving," said Oldt.

Physical therapists tell the robot what to do for each patient. Its software and electric motors are designed to help people regain their strength.

"The robot is also adapting to the patient's effort, so if the patient can do more, then the robot's backing off," said Andy McGuigan, who works at Ekso Bionics.

"The machine is allowing me to do it," said Oldt. "Now my body is taking over, saying we can do this."

About 200 centers around the world are using the technology, and that now includes Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital, which showcased the device Thursday.

"We are the first rehab in this area to have this," said Lyndsay Tawney, the director of business development at Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital. "Our goal is to get every patient home, and this allows them to get home much faster."

Oldt says the machine gives him hope again. 

"My goal is, might never happen, but it's still a goal that I have: sit on my Harley, put my leg out, and be able to ride it one more time," said Oldt.

Ekso Bionics says so far combined, patients have taken almost 100 million steps using the device.

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