New device helps paralysis patients stand tall

Updated: Oct. 24, 2017 at 9:33 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Believe it or not, a little bit of dusting high above her kitchen stove is something Baton Rouge woman, Karen Roy, looks forward to.

"I've been in cabinets that I have not been in ever in my life, cleaning those out, standing and cooking, standing and doing laundry," said Roy.

Thirty years ago, a shooting left Roy paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Since that tragic event, she's fought every day for her health and mobility. "Pretty much from the day of the accident, my parents and I found different devices to stand with, so braces and then standing frames, things like that," said Roy.

Over three decades of trying out different chairs and machines, Roy says she's found something unique. It's a mobile standing device that when fully activated, looks similar to a Segway.

"The benefits are it's functional because I can reach things I couldn't reach before. In addition to that, when I'm standing, it's helping me improve bone density and that sort of thing," said Roy.

Smaller and more mobile than similar devices, the Tek Robotic Mobilization Device allows the user to move around in a standing position, leaving arms and hands free. The Tek RMD is steered using a simple joystick. Roy says she first got a chance to try out the Tek RMD through the company where she works, Numotion.

Numotion sells specialty equipment, including the Tek RMD. She says immediately, she knew she wanted one of her own. Since then, she's enjoyed the everyday tasks around her home, like dusting, that she couldn't do in her wheelchair. As Roy explains, standing can be very beneficial for patients with limited mobility because it can improve blood circulation, bone density, and muscle strength. Roy says keeping healthy and strong also allows patients to benefit from other therapies down the road.

The Tek RMD's design also allows patients to use it without additional help, giving the patient more independence. However, Roy says her favorite part is being able to stand tall and look her family in the eyes for the first time in 30 years.

"I have three kids. They're tall. My youngest is 6' 2'' and he and his football player friends are always over here and I'm looking at them in the eye and saying, 'clean up your mess,'" laughed Roy. "It's exhilarating. It's great."

The Tek RMD is available in more than 40 states at a cost of around $25,000 and it's FDA approved for home use. Similar devices can cost more than $100,000 and are usually only approved for clinical use. While it's not covered by insurance, Roy says she and others are trying to work with lawmakers to get standing devices covered for patients with limited mobility.

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