Blind for 16 years and paralyzed from the waist down since 2010, that’s Mark Pollock. The motivational speaker’s experience as ‘Iron ElectriRx Man’ in the robotics lab at UCLA has been truly phenomenal.
He took the courage to be the first subject in an experiment which aims at the effective walk for paralyzed patients through electrical stimulation. Way back in 2010 when Pollack met with a spinal injury, he was told that there is not any possibility of sensation below his waist. For a person who had engaged in adventure races on the most severe geographical areas of Earth, it was a whole new journey for him to make a substantial life on a wheelchair.
However Pollock reveals that he was always ready to look forward to any new innovation that comes and that’s the reason why he was determined to keep the paralyzed bits in good enough state. When Pollack came to UCLA, he already had the grasp of battery-powered bionic suit usage but his injuries were so severe that he was essentially a passenger in the exoskeleton.
This state was however changed in the lab of V Reggie Edgerton who attached electrical patches to Pollack’s skin and after a week Pollack experienced the sensation which was absent for the last four years. There was a tension and tingling in his legs.
The moment when he could walk up to his fiancée an hug her and interact with others in standing posture was epoch-making for him. Now, his legs were looser, and even the digestion improved. The neurons are awakened by the electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, and these awakened neurons in spinal are then able to sense the movement of the limbs, said Edgerton. However, the extent to which this process is helpful to a patient depends on the severity and site of the injury of the spinal cord.
Retrieving even half of the control is considered highly notable said Edgerton, who considers the latest attempt a proof of this principle. The same team had worked with five paralyzed men, and all were given 45-minute training sessions for 18 weeks.
The result was positive as all were able to regain the control of their legs. According to Edgerton, the future of the robotics and rehabilitation lies in the fact that the device will be helpful but it is the patient who has to completely take charge of the condition so that some voluntary movement is regained.