Technology helps paraplegic man walk again

Walking again with a robotic exoskeleton

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A few shorts years ago, walking appeared out of the question for a young man from Cambridge.

Now thanks to technology and dedication, Jackson Larson is back on his feet.

"It's just incredible to see how far I've come," said Larson, now 22-years-old.

KARE 11 first met Larson in January 2011--shortly after he was injured. His car slipped out of park into reverse.

"I tried to jump into my moving vehicle and then the door had already been opened so then when I dove in, the door pinched my spine," Larson said.

The injury left Larson, then 16, paralyzed from the waist down.

"Never thought he would walk again. I told him one day he's going to walk down an aisle. I got an engaged. I don't know if he needs to walk down my aisle but maybe his own aisle one of these days," said Jackson's brother, Bennett Larson.

Larson will now get that chance. He has been learning to walk again at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare using his ReWalk--a robotic exoskeleton.

"Jackson is the first patient that we've trained on a ReWalk. We've had other patients try the device but not have the opportunity to go through the training," said Amy Schulz, a physical therapist at Gillette Children's.

Larson is able to control aspects of his ReWalk through a watch. It also depends on his movements.

"There's a sensor in the hip joint that if he leans far enough forward, it's going to propel the leg. So it's kind of based upon his weight shifting," said Janna Neher, a physical therapist at Gillette Children's who also worked with Larson.

Tuesday morning, Larson had his final physical therapy appointment at the hospital. Friends and family cheered him on as he walked across the skyway for the last time before taking his ReWalk home.

Larson, a Twins fan, also got a visit from Joe Mauer and mascot T.C. Larson plays basketball for the Rolling Timberwolves and softball with the Rolling Twins.

"Just seeing all the support is amazing and it just feels good," Larson said.

According to Gillette Children's, Larson is the first person in the United States to get his ReWalk covered through insurance.

He said he is excited to use his ReWalk to walk around Cambridge and is also planning a trip to Mall of America.


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