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Paralyzed Woman Completes Marathon in 16 Days

May 24, 2012 at 11:33:01 AM

In 2007, a British woman named Claire Lomas was paralyzed from the chest down after breaking her neck and back in a horse-riding accident. She had no chance of ever walking again.

Until the Israelis came along.

When an accident left Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer as a quadriplegic, he designed the ReWalk suit, an ingenious device that enables people with lower-limb paralysis to "walk." ReWalk uses an array of motion sensors to detect upper body movement, which then causes the bionic leg braces to ambulate.

This month, Lomas became the first paralyzed person to complete a marathon not using a wheelchair. She began the London Marathon on April 22 with 36,000 other participants and completed the 26-mile route 16 days after the race began.

"Once I started, I just took each day as it came," she said. "And every step got me a step closer."

The change from wheelchair to walking is profound. Not only in terms of mobility (ReWalk can climb stairs), but also being able to speak eye-to-eye with others goes a long way in building dignity and self-confidence. Goffer, the inventor of the system, says: "When I was injured the first thing I was offered was the only thing: a wheelchair… There hasn't been a real change [in technology] for centuries."

Ironically, Goffer cannot benefit from his own invention. As a quadriplegic, he has only partial use of his hands, but not enough to operate the ReWalk.

To me, this is another chapter in the Israeli story of bringing positive change to the world. The Jewish people are masters of hope and spirit - for millennia the cutting-edge leaders in agriculture, medicine, technology and, of course, the ethical system we're now celebrating on the Shavuot holiday.


May 24, 2012

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