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VA hospital receives robotic suit to help veterans walk

VA hospital receives robotic suit to help veterans walk

SAN ANTONIO - SoldierStrong, a national veteran organization, made a massive donation to the South Texas Veterans Health Care System on Wednesday. The organization donated an exoskeleton suit from Ekso Bionics. The robotic suit helps veterans who are learning how to walk again after suffering a stroke, spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury.

Allen Turner, a Marine Corps. disabled veteran, tested out the Ekso Suit. Turner received traumatic brain injury after he was in a car accident a few days after Thanksgiving.

"I swerved off the highway and over corrected and started flipping. I rolled several times. I was partially ejected,” Turner said about the accident.

The 31-year-old said he does not remember anything that happened the day of his accident. He admitted while his recovery has been difficult, the robotic suit has moved his recovery in the right direction.

"It helps me, kind of like muscle memory,” Turner said. “It walks how I should walk, so when I get out of it, my body knows that it needs to walk that certain way."

SoldierStrong said the suit cost $150,000. The San Antonio delivery was the 12th suit SoldierStrong donated to Veterans Affairs.

"Knowing the size of the veteran population that they serve and knowing that it's one of the top Polytrauma Centers in the country, not only in the VA, but in general, it was just a natural fit," Chris Meek, SoldierStrong Co-Founder, said.

Dr. Blessen Eapen, section chief of the STVHCS Polytrauma Center, accepted the donation. He said it would serve as another tool for therapists helping patients in rehabilitation.

"Quality of life for the patient changes. Their functional abilities change and it also helps them emotionally to see themselves up and walking,” Dr. Eapen said.

"It's kind of cool also to be in an exoskeleton, a robot suit. Everybody sees Iron Man on the movies and nobody dreams that they're going to be able to put on a suit like that,” Turner said.

Physical therapists completed a training program to use the device.

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