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eLEGS Help Some Take First Steps In Years

Published On: Aug 17 2011 03:14:40 PM EDT   Updated On: May 13 2011 12:45:10 PM EDT

Bionic legs may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, however, they are soon to be a reality at a local rehabilitation hospital.

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation in Allentown has been selected as one of 10 rehab centers in the country to try out eLEGS, a wearable bionic robot.

If a face tells the story of hope, then Ally Armstrong's cheekbones said, "Finally!"


"It's amazing. After sitting for so long your body is like, 'Oh, let me stand up,' said Armstrong, 18, of Schnecksville, Lehigh County. Once you stand up, the weight is off your shoulders, it's relaxing."

Armstrong had just taken some of her first steps more than a yea after severing her spinal cord in a snow tubing accident.

Ally is able to walk wearing eLEGSs.

"Works with set motors that are battery operated," said Darrell Music of Berkeley Bionics. "A computer controls the walking in an algorithm that takes normal steps."

The wearable legs are designed by the California company. Good Shepherd is one of the select few rehab centers participating in the exoskeleton's early trials, which enabled Kevin Oldt, 44, of Allentown, to walk for the first time in a decade.

"It was energetic, hard to explain unless you're in that situation. It's an emotional high," Oldt said.

Despite the rave reviews, don't expect people to strap on the eLEGSs and walk out of the building just yet. Good Shepherd said it won't be until 2012 before it's available to patients. More research is needed to see if eLEGS's has the potential to enable those like Oldt and Armstrong to fully walk again.