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After Paralysis, Blind Man Takes First Steps With Robotic Suit, Plans Trip to Siberia

mark pollock
Pollock feels that the setting of goals really motivates him. First, he says, he managed to reach his bedroom door, then the Gobi desert, and then the South Pole. YouTube

After becoming blind at the age of 22, Mark Pollock knows a little something about adversity. He became the first blind person to voyage on foot to the South Pole at the age of 33.

Then, in 2010, a freak accident took away his ability to use his legs. In 2010, Pollock sleepwalked out of a window. The accident left him paralyzed below the ribs, and even robbed him of his resilience. He told Daily Mail reporters that, for six months, he could not even emerge from his bed.

But, just two years later, Pollock is taking 2,500 steps a day and is planning a trip to Siberia.

How is he making this miraculous recovery? Pollock is the first person to own a suit that costs 100,000 pounds, or nearly $160,000. The suit is worn like a backpack, and its robotic legs wrap around those of the person using them. When he shifts his weight, the suit's feet send the information to the computer in the backpack, which then, in turn, activates his legs.

The Ekso suit requires wheelchair-bound patients to have the strength to transfer them to and from the chair. It requires three steps of training to use it: first, the therapist programs how large the step should be and operates the buttons when they see the patient shifting his or her weight; then, the patient moves the suit by using buttons on the crutch, while the therapist spots him or her; and last, the patient uses the suit simply by shifting his or her weight. The company hopes to devise a suit that can be used simply at home by 2014.

Pollock was able to buy the suit after learning about the company in 2012. Donors and supporters helped him raise money for it. Since trying it on for the first time in San Francisco, Pollock is part of a six-month trial taking place at Trinity College that searches to find out how the suit affects wheelchair-restricted patients' physical health. Pollock says that his heart and lungs have already improved because sitting on a round-the-clock basis puts pressure on various organs.

Pollock feels that the setting of goals really motivates him. First, he says, he managed to reach his bedroom door, then the Gobi desert, and then the South Pole.

Pollock says that the suit has done wonders on his self-esteem, and he likes that he can hug his fiancée at her level.

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