New York, United States

By Mike Segar

On a cold Wednesday morning in March 2014, I saw Errol Samuels sitting in his wheelchair before a therapy session at a New York City hospital named Mount Sinai.

 

Errol, a 22-year-old from Hollis, Queens, is paraplegic. The week before his college final exams in May 2012, he and his friends went to an off-campus party. He went out on a deck and the roof collapsed on him, crushing his spine. Errol says his doctors “didn’t need to tell me what was wrong. Once it happened, I couldn’t move my legs at all”. But remarkably, less than two years later with the help of a revolutionary new device named the “ReWalk”, Errol is back on his feet.

 

He has been using an electronic, computer-controlled exoskeleton that powers the hips and knees, helping those with lower limb disabilities to walk upright using crutches. Made by the Israeli company Argo Medical Technologies, it has allowed Errol and other spinal cord injury patients who have enrolled in a clinical trial at Mount Sinai to do something that until recently was considered almost impossible – stand up and walk.

I have a personal interest in spinal cord injuries, so when I heard about the research being done with the ReWalk and other exoskeletons I was immediately fascinated. You see, long before I was born my father Joseph C. Segar injured his spinal chord in 1944 while fighting with his infantry unit in the Philippines during World War II. He became paralyzed from the waist down.

Doctors told my father he would never walk again. But many months later and with the devoted help of a young physical-therapy nurse back in the United States, my dad began to walk. With braces on his legs, and using crutches and later a cane, Joe walked and continued to walk for the rest of his life. That young physical therapist, Caroline Coggeshall, who helped him through his long recovery became my mother, Caroline Segar.