Patients walk again with help of technology

Dominican Hospital using technology to help patients with more than just physical strength

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Technology at a Central Coast hospital is giving patients a priceless gift and Wednesday they showed it off.

It's a bionic walker that's helping patients learn how to stand and walk again.

It's a wearable robotic exoskeleton called EksoGT.

While patients say it's helped them make major physical progress they also say it's had a much deeper impact.

Inspired by technology used in the military, the bionic walker is giving patients like Kendra Kannegaard, hit by strokes or spinal cord injuries, new hope.

"Not only does it physiologically do a lot for my body to kind of start remembering what that was like," Kannegaard said, "It's a confidence boost to be able to be like 'I can do this, I'm standing' it's such an incredible thing, it's so empowering and it's just such a gift."

The robot helps people walk again by guiding them without weighing them down.

"The machine kind of makes it so effortless feeling that it's so much easier than I thought it would be," Kannegaard said.

Bonnie Bernardi donated one of the robots in her husband's name. She got the chance to meet Kendra for the first time.

"You look at their smiles and you can see how well they're walking and how they're making progress," Bernardi said, "It's just fantastic."

Physical therapist Ashley Taylor hopes to see the technology eventually help even more people make incredible progress.

"The possibilities are endless really," Taylor said, "I do think this is going to branch into the realm of community use and home use and people are going to be able to be functional ambulators out in the world."

Though Kendra is grateful to have the help for now, she's already looking to the future.

"One day I won't need the suit and I'll be able to do this on my own but for now, I'll take the suit because it's wonderful and it's such a great way for me to accomplish my goals, Kannegaard said.

Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz is the only hospital on the Central Coast with the bionic walkers.

One of them will stay at the outpatient facility, the other will be brought to Dominican's acute rehabilitation unit.

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