Exoskeleton teaches disabled woman to walk again
- Credit: Archant
She thought she would never walk again - but one woman from Essex is now making incredible strides thanks to a revolutionary motorised exoskeleton.
Jenny Hudson, of Grange Road in the tiny Essex village of Lawford, was a talented equestrian, taking horses over challenging hurdles before she had a fall in October 2015.
Describing the incident as "a freak accident", her horse was trotting along a dirt track when she came off and suffered life-changing injuries - breaking her neck, her back in three places and breaking three ribs. She was 56 at the time.
"I was in intensive care for three weeks after I came off," said Mrs Hudson, now 60.
"They airlifted me to Addenbrooke's, I ended up with a collapsed lung, I had pneumonia. It was terrible.
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"I am grateful to the NHS for everything they did while I was in hospital, they were incredible.
"But you only get six sessions of rehab when you leave hospital. After that you're on your own and it's hard."
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Refusing to be confined to a wheelchair, Mrs Hudson has worked tirelessly to regain the use of her legs.
She is currently making a six-hour round trip to Winchester every week to visit Hobbs Rehabilitation, who are using a pioneering motor-powered exoskeleton to teach her to walk again.
The Ekso Bionics Exoskeleton is strapped to her legs and torso, as she uses a Zimmerframe to support her upper body while motors move her legs in a walking motion.
"It's incredible but your body can quickly forget how to walk, you need to develop the strength and muscle memory all over again," said Mrs Hudson.
"I've been using the exoskeleton for 18 months. When I started the motors were doing most of the walking, it took six months until I was taking my own steps.
"It sounds weird because I'm only walking, but I always feel like I've had a big workout when I use it, it forces to use your core a lot."
Despite the distance, Mrs Hudson says the journey is worth it to work with her physiotherapist, Louis Martinelli.
"It's important you have a good relationship with your physiotherapist, you need to be able to trust them," she added.
"Louis is always behind me and ready to catch me.
"I used to need a lot of his help but now he only has to push my foot with his foot and I can get going."
After the accident Mrs Hudson's husband Richard, who has worked in construction for 35 years, made the incredible move to build his wife a rehabilitation facility close to their Lawford home.
Lawford House Pool offers hydrotherapy facilities which can be booked by members of the public, with all the equipment sourced and tested by Mrs Hudson.
She explained: "Ideally I wouldn't have to travel so far, that's why I use Lawford House Pool to practice walking in the water - it takes away the fear of falling.
"It also has a pool pod which lets you get in and out of the water more easily.
"I've used pools before where the hoists to get you in and out of the pool have been far from dignified, so this is much better."
Mr Hudson has even bought detachable third wheel - a Cyclone wheel from mobility company Batec - for his wife's wheelchair, allowing her to keep up with their four dogs when they play in the garden or go for a walk.