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Robot Rehab: Armeo Gives Pravin His Life Back

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (WGEM)— Each year, approximately 18,000 Americans suffer a spinal cord injury. Among that number are those diagnosed with central cord syndrome.

Symptoms can include paralysis as well as loss of control in the arms and hands.

However, a new exoskeleton device, resembling something out of a Terminator movie, is making the rehab process a lot more effective.

One of the simple joys for Pravin Vazirani is the quiet moments he spends with just his guitar.

However, a few months ago, he wasn’t sure if he would have the chance to ever play again.

“I was in Hawaii on vacation with my family and got thrown by a wave and was instantly paralyzed. They got me out of the water and onto the beach, and that’s when I realized it was a pretty serious problem,” Pravin recalled.

After emergency surgery to stabilize his spine, Pravin was flown to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in Northern California for rehabilitation.

“He had a type of spinal cord injury that we see fairly often, it’s called central cord syndrome,” explained James Crew, MD, chair of physical medicine & rehabilitation at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Lindsey Rainey, an occupational therapist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center described, “He wasn’t able to move his arms, at that point, too much yet against gravity.”

And so Rainey decided to introduce Pravin to the Armeo, a futuristic-looking, exoskeleton device.

“It is a little bit intimidating,” Pravin shared.

“The Armeo power helps unweight a patient’s arm and then helps them to move it while they participate in a game,” Rainey illustrated.

The concept is similar to being in a pool, which also eliminates the force of gravity.

“And so, people can move more freely,” Rainey added.

“And then it’s connected to a computer and you play various video games that require you to move your arms around,” Pravin described.

A high game score means you’re improving.

“It’s actually really motivating for a patient,” Pravin admitted.

It shows. Two months later, Pravin is making so much progress that doctors say a full recovery is within reach.

“Yesterday, I went and played basketball!” Pravin exclaimed.

Doctor Crew also adds that the Armeo works best alongside traditional physical therapy treatment. The Armeo is also often prescribed for those recovering from neurological issues such as a stroke or brain injury.

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Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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