Community Looks To Help Paralyzed Soldiers Walk Again
In Greenwich, CT, Christopher Meek has a goal: to raise money to help paralyzed soldiers walk once again.
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How? By a new invention called the Ekso suit developed by the company Ekso Bionics. It is an incredible technology which contains the power to get paralyzed vets out of their wheelchairs.
Meek’s mission began much smaller, helping provide socks and other small items to soldiers abroad. Now after being introduced to the Ekso suit, he has made it his goal to make the $140,000 technology available to the 100,000 paralyzed vets.
Greenwich has a long tradition of supporting causes that will aid soldiers and veterans, and next week residents will again have a chance to step forward and literally help paralyzed people walk again.
A special fund-raiser is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Bruce Museum from 6 to 8 p.m. to boost the efforts of Soldier Socks, a not-for-profit group that started out trying to make sure soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan had the simple things people so easily take for granted, like clean socks, when they needed them. But the mission has expanded from there, and now the group has gotten involved with technology that could allow people who thought they would never walk again to be able to get out of their wheelchairs.
This is being done through technology called an Ekso suit developed by the company Ekso Bionics. It is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered bionic suit, which becomes a type of exoskeleton for whoever is wearing it that lets people with lower extremity paralysis stand up and walk. This could be a huge development as there are close to 100,000 combat veterans either paralyzed or with severe spinal cord injuries.
Soldier Socks was co-founded by Christopher Meek, a Stamford businessman and former congressional candidate, and it ended up sending more than 25 tons of socks, baby wipes and other basic necessities to soldiers overseas. In recent years it had adjusted its mission to help soldiers returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to civilian life and find jobs. Now it has adjusted once again and is focused on technology that might seem like something out of a movie but is offering real hope to veterans who might otherwise never be able to walk again.
The suit allows a person paralyzed through injury or a stroke to be able to walk by using the person’s forward lateral weight shift to initiate the step. Then the battery-powered motors drive the legs and replace neuromuscular functions. One could call this “next level technology,” but Mr. Meek is quick to correct that, saying it’s more accurately “three levels above next level.”
Now Mr. Meek is looking to put Soldier Socks and its supporters to work helping this company make the suits available to individuals. They had been available only at rehabilitation centers, but just last month the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the use by individuals. That’s where Soldier Socks and its Oct. 9 event at the Bruce come into play. Mr. Meek calls this a “hybrid fund-raiser and friend-raiser” to make people aware of the mission and to get them on board for an even bigger event planned for Dec. 9 at the New York Yacht Club in New York City, where an Ekso suit will be presented to a paralyzed veteran.