Paralyzed “bionic” woman completes London Marathon

Paralyzed "bionic" woman completes London Marathon

It’s hard enough for an able-bodied person to finish a grueling 26.2 mile marathon, let alone someone who’s paralyzed. But thanks to the help of modern technology that is exactly what Claire Lomas managed to do when she recently competed in the London Marathon with the help of some high-tech bionic legs.

It took her 16 days, but 32-year-old robotic-runner crossed the finish line on May 8 for a race that began on April 22, reports the BBC. Lomas, who is paralyzed from the waist down, managed her seemingly insurmountable task with a special computerized suit called ReWalk, which allows individuals that have lost full working capacity of their limbs the chance for increased levels of mobility.

ReWalk works by forming an exoskeleton around the users’ legs and is controlled by a series of embedded motors. The suit, designed by Israeli firm Argo Medical Technologies, costs about $70,000 and was recently approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

Lomas’s paralysis is a result of a tragic horse-riding accident in 2007 where she suffered a broken neck, back, and ribs after being thrown off her horse. Her entry into this year’s London Marathon has helped raised nearly $130,000 in charity for Spinal Research.

Despite completing the race, Lomas was not awarded a finishers medal, a fact that has generated a lot of criticism towards the event’s organizers. Race rules stipulate that participants finish the event in the same day, meaning Lomas was ineligible for a medal after taking 16 days to complete. However, in a huge show of admiration and solidarity, several finishers sent Lomas their own medals, which in turn have prompted organizers to present her with a special trophy.

While mechanical and robotic augmentations aren’t entirely new, Lomas’ accomplishment is especially inspiring and exciting to witness because of all the possible applications Argo’s ReWalk technology could lead to. This may very well open the door for individuals who have lost partial or complete function of their limbs, and allow for unprecedented levels of mobility and freedom, not to mention fulfill the fantasy of many a nerd for further integration of man and machine. 

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