Robot helps hospital patients find their legs

Reykjavik-based insurance company, Sjóvá, has donated a robot to the rehabilitation ward of Iceland’s National Hospital. The computer-controlled robot will help paraplegics with spinal and brain injuries learn to use their legs again and possibly even walk.

The Morgunbladid reported that the robot helps to support patients and control their leg movements while they walk on a treadmill. Previously this rehabilitation treatment required intensive staff assistance.

Gerth Larsen was paralysed in 2004 due to swelling in his spine. He works in the office of Air Iceland and has been using the new robotic technology in his rehabilitation regime. “I’m very optimistic and I believe it is helping me. When I use crutches I drag my feet and find it difficult to stay balanced. The robot teaches me to take the steps correctly again,” he said.

The rehabilitation ward’s director, Stefán Yngvason, was equally excited about the new opportunities for treatment. “In traditional training we use a treadmill and a suspension device for the patient. Often we needed two people to control the legs,” he said. Having the robot on the ward means that these staff will be able to perform other tasks.

“The patient can also control many movements and see what has been achieved. The patient gets a very natural feeling for what it is like to walk,” Yngvason said.

Sjóvá Insurance Company was established in 1989 through the merger of two well established local insurance companies. The company believes in contributing the community and to ‘causes that are socially beneficial’. The company currently employs 180 people and is the largest insurance provider in the country.