Britain’s Simon Kindleysides, a 34-year old man paralyzed from the waist down, set out at 10 a.m. on Sunday and in 36 hours walked the London Marathon, becoming the first paralyzed man to complete the course on foot. To perform his feat, he used Israeli technology — the ReWalk exoskeleton, a suit for patients with spinal cord injuries that helps them walk independently with the help of computers and motion sensors.
“I’m exhausted, I’m not going to lie, ” Kindleysides said in a YouTube video at 8:41 the next morning, after he had walked 16 miles as drivers tooted and fans applauded. “I’m going to get to the finish line.”
“This is the furthest I have ever walked in my entire life,” he said at 22 miles. And at mile 25, he said, “Bring it on, I’m almost there.”
He hit 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) at around 11 p.m. on Monday amid cheering crowds, raising his arms in victory. The marathon winner, Eliud Kipchoge, crossed the finish line in little over two hours.
Kindleysides was diagnosed in 2013 with a neurological condition and a benign brain tumor that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
In 2012, Claire Lomas, paralyzed from the chest down, completed the marathon course at the London Paralympics using the ReWalk exoskeleton.
“The support has just been overwhelming and like a dream come true,” Kindleysides told the Eastern Daily Press. “It is incredible because I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was. My children are getting great comments at school and they are very proud of their dad.”
“I just wanted to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” he said. “You can stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself or get out and enjoy your life, because you are only here once.”
Kindleysides raised £6,500 for Brain Tumor Charity with his marathon walk, the Eastern Daily Press reported.
In June 2015, Kindleysides raised over £5000 for charity when he hand-cycled from London to Paris.
The ReWalk exoskeleton was developed by ReWalk Robotics Ltd., a Nasdaq-traded Israeli company. Its inventor, Amit Goffer, is a mechanical engineer who became paralyzed from his upper back down after an accident.
The ReWalk exoskeleton allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person, as computers and motion sensors do the “heavy lifting.” The suit hugs the legs of users as they walk, with crutches to stabilize them. Users wear a remote-control system on their wrists so they can control their movements. As they walk, sensors make sure that their chest remains upright and balanced, allowing them to take strides without falling.
The system controls movement using subtle changes in center of gravity, mimics natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling paraplegics to move independently.
ReWalk Robotics said in March that in 2017, 107 ReWalk systems were placed, of which 57 were in the US, 37 were in European markets, and 13 were in other markets. Net loss for 2017 was $24.7 million compared to a net loss of $32.5 million for 2016.
The biggest hindrance to sales growth is ReWalk’s price, which is some $80,000 to $85,000, and the company is seeking insurance reimbursements to help reach wider audiences, Jeff Dykan, the chairman of ReWalk, said earlier this month.
In April, the company started a clinical study of a new product that will aid the rehabilitation of people who have suffered a stroke.