Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

Archive for October, 2010

Walking with Tucker

For the first time I’ve been able to say to my dog, Tucker “Do you want to go for a WALK?” and mean it!


October 14, 2010: Transitions

I am living the dream that is on the precipice of molecular science and robotic technology combined.  As Geron presented the first clinical trial of human embryonic stem cells in the United States recently, we are making strides for mankind.  I was injected with human embryonic stem cells by Dr. Geeta Shroff in India with six treatments over a span of three years.  My embryonic stem cells continue to slowly gestate to bring renewed life with muscle power and sensation to my limbs and the bionic exoskeleton created by Berkeley Bionics helps me walk in a perfect gait so that maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to walk on my own two legs and feet in my lifetime.  I’m grateful to live in an era of technological advancement so I can help chart a pioneering path that will open up possibilities for others.   The interplay of regenerative medicine combined with bionics is real, tangible, and will revolutionize mobility options for individuals who are paralyzed.

I have now clocked approximately 20-25 hours of walking time under my belt in eLEGS.  I have made three separate visits to Berkeley Bionics, the home of eLEGS and the innovative engineering team.  I’ve demonstrated eLEGS potential by walking outside by the Berkeley Marina with the wind in my face along a paved pathway skirting a choppy bay with San Francisco looming in a foggy distance.  We walked together—me, my exoskeleton and with Gabrielle, my best friend of twenty-years.  Oh, how I’ve longed to walk tall outside.

As Berkeley Bionics introduces eLEGS to the world, I have been inundated with questions, curiosity, and fascination at the potential for robotics to play a key role in assisting wheelchair users to stand up and walk.  There are also those who question why I’ve resorted to an exoskeleton to walk as opposed to my own healing journey—people wonder if my embryonic stem cells have “failed” me in that I’m not up and walking on my own two feet.  My answer is simple:  both eLEGS and my stem cell journey go hand-in-hand.  While I try hard to deflect the naysayers I can’t help but justify my situation.  eLEGS is a tremendous therapeutic means to help me walk in a natural gait one step after another with a bent knee and a heel-to-toe step.  As I walk I believe I am rewiring the neuropathways in my brain and spinal cord.  While the exoskeleton supports me, I am bearing weight on my limbs and my bones.  With each step my muscles and synapses fire.  I am reminding my brain, bones, nerves, and every cellular fiber of my being how to walk.  They hold the muscle memory.  After walking for two-to-three hours in eLEGS my legs actually ache from fatigue, and they tickle with electrical impulses dancing from toes to torso as if Tinkerbell has sprinkled fairy dust of life into each limb.  My calves and ankles are no longer swollen and they are pink and warm to touch (as opposed to purple, lifeless and cold).  Since beginning walking in the exoskeleton on June 25th, I have noticed that my left quadricep muscle is stronger, which has been affirmed by my physical therapists.  I have more power in my left leg overall.  While I cannot attribute this change to eLEGS objectively, the greater part of me wants to believe that walking with eLEGS in the most normal gait pattern regularly is proving beneficial in my own body.  I would love to be involved in a study that somehow objectively measures the feedback to my brain during walking and how that translates into my own rehabilitation and therapeutic benefits.

This is the time to celebrate the possibilities for robotic technology.  In 18 years of paralysis I’ve learned how to downhill ski, cross country ski, water ski, and hand cycle (amongst other sports) in specially designed adaptive equipment, yet the technology has never been available until recently to enable me to get up and walk. 

The development of eLEGS is truly at an embryonic phase with this first prototype.  I am one of the fortunate test pilots to provide feedback as the engineers dream up new innovations to propel eLEGS into a new dimension. 

Regenerative medicine in terms of stem cell transplantation will become the first line of treatment after a chronic spinal cord injury, and walking in an exoskeleton will be the first line of rehabilitation to enable someone to return to walking immediately.  I am living out both scenarios as I pioneer forward. We are at the dawn of a new era with regenerative medicine and robotics engineering on the forefront of what was only once imagined.  I am so blessed.

Tomorrow is LAUNCH DAY –

Tomorrow is the BIG LAUNCH DAY –  I’m ready and my new best friend (the exoskeleton) is ready to power up, stand up and walk in front of the world.  The exoskeleton enables me to walk independently with crutches in the most natural gait in 18 years of paralysis.  I walk in a beautiful upright stance stepping with a bent knee and heel-to-toe foot placement.  Wheelchair users have every reason to live with hope with such cutting-edge technology on our side.  This is real and it’s happening now.  While this first prototype is designed as a mobility device to be used under medical supervision, my personal vision of climbing mountains and striding out over sandy beaches is becoming more realistic.  The exoskeleton enables me to see eye-to-eye and to give a heart-to-heart hug.  I feel so fortunate to be a test pilot for this revolutionary bionic technology and to help show others what is possible.  This is just the beginning.  The potential for the exoskeleton to transform lives is vast.  I’m living my dream, my legs are alive and I am re-patterning perfectly natural steps for the first time in many, many years.  Tune in tomorrow to watch the launch and share my excitement.  Celebrate the team’s vision at Berkeley Bionics as the brilliant technology created by the robotics engineers is brought to the world.  See you on stage….

Another upcoming appearance: Oct. 8th with Hans Keirstead in Orannge County, CA

Spinal Cord Injury? SMA? ALS? Parkinsons’?

Guess what? Another secret soon to be divulged… I’ll be appearing at this event in my new “toy”! 

Share an evening with Dr.Hans Keirstead.  Meet him in person on 10/8/10

Click on this link for more information and how to register:

Berkeley Bionics Launches Exoskeleton–secret soon to be unveiled to the world!

What’s new in my world?  I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been involved in something top secret.  The countdown is on and I’ll finally be able to share my secret with you in less than five days! 

I have been fortunate to be involved in something really exciting that will revolutionize mobility options for individuals in wheelchairs.  Berkeley Bionics will unveil their new exoskeleton to the world as their website goes public on Thursday, October 7th at precisely 10:20 am Pacific Standard Time.  At 10:30 am PST watch a live video stream of the launch, which can be accessed and viewed on the new website  Please share my personal excitement as Berkeley Bionic’s vision comes alive. 

Watch me as I power up, stand up and WALK!!!!!