A robotic suit gives paralysed children the ability to walk
A robotic suit gives paralysed children the ability to walk

Mexico City, Mexico City: An eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy walks through a therapy room in Mexico City wearing a robotic exoskeleton designed specifically for children, smiling triumphantly at a once unimaginable feat. David Zabala is wheelchair bound due to a neurological condition that has made him deaf and sign language dependent.

He was able to walk and stand in front of a mirror while drawing smiling faces with colored marker pens thanks to the Atlas 2030 exoskeleton, which won its creator the European Inventor Award this year. "He's getting his bearings. It makes him happy," said the boy's mother, Guadalupe Cardoso, 41.

"It frightened him at first, and his hands were very tense, but now I see him holding a marker pen and drawing or (playing) the ball," Cardoso said.

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That makes the nearly two-hour tedious drive from her home south of Mexico City to the medical center worthwhile, she says.
Elena García Armada, a Spanish professor, created the exoskeleton to allow children in wheelchairs to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy.

According to the European Patent Office, which awarded Garcia the European Inventor Award, the mechanical joints of the battery-powered titanium suit intelligently adapt to the movement of each child.

It was said that allowing paralyzed children to walk "not only increases their life expectancy and improves their physical well-being, but also improves their self-esteem."

Mexico is the third country after Spain and France to use Atlas 2030 to treat children.

According to Guadalupe Maldonado, director of Mexico's Association for People with Cerebral Palsy, the suit helps achieve "record time rehabilitation goals" that would take months to achieve with conventional treatments.

According to Maldonado, benefits include muscle strengthening, improved digestive and respiratory systems, and most important, a significant mood boost.

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He claims that two weeks after receiving its first exoskeleton, the private organization founded in 1970 has already seen positive results.

The second device, worth about $250,000, is expected to arrive in Mexico City next month.
The initial goal of the association is to provide rehabilitation services to approximately 200 children with cerebral palsy.

“We want to work and empower so that more children in the city and across the country can benefit from this type of rehabilitation … which fundamentally changes their lives,” Maldonado said.

The sessions also bring joy to the practitioners, who carefully fit the exoskeleton with their special corsets, cuffs and shoes and appreciate the children's progress.

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"It inspires us, as physicians, to know that we will be able to achieve a lot in the future," said 28-year-old Arturo Palafox.

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