Stories from Main Street: Stamford-based charity tries to help paralyzed vets walk again
STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – Many soldiers have returned for our dual wars in the Middle East without the ability to walk and a Stamford-based charity wants do something about that.
Four years ago, Chris Meek, who works in finance, started the charity Soldier Socks to send personal hygienic items to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he wants to donate ten exoskeletons to paralyzed veterans.
“You think about the men and women who put their lives on the front line every day so we can sleep at night,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.
He’s trying to raise just under $1.5 million for the wearable robots.
“So we have, obviously, an aggressive grant writing campaign. We’re reaching out to major corporations,” Meek said.
The unit basically looks like a backpack with sturdy leg braces and is outfitted with batteries, gears and actuators.
“The user just takes a step just like you or I take a step. They shift their weight. They move forward and the device can sense that with all the sensors and it takes the next step for them,” Russ Angold, co-founder and COO of Ekso Bionics, told Adams.
Angold said he about fell out of his chair when Meek told him of the donation idea.
“It’s just so amazing to see people stepping up to try to do something like this,” Angold said.
In 2011, Chris Tagatack from Vermont fell off of his roof and was paralyzed bellow the sternum.
Then he was outfitted with the Ekso device.
“I think about the device the way you might think about going to the gym… I would go to a rehab place. I would strap it on. Go for a walk,” he said.
Adams watched as he was strapped into the unit and went from his wheelchair to his feet in a matter of minutes. With the help of crutches, he was able to walk with slow, deliberate steps.
“It’s always good to stand. It’s good to meet the world at eye level,” Tagatack said.
“My bone density is going to be much better than someone who is, obviously, sitting after an injury. My digestion’s gotten better. I’m convinced that the atrophy that a lot of people experience when they’re in a chair will be slower,” he added.
“Just listened to what it’s doing for him and helping him and others like him and I think that sums it all up,” Meek said.