A week with HAL: Daniel’s Story
Tell us a little bit about your background and your rehabilitation journey so far.
I was a Chef prior to my injury in May 2010, bouncing between several restaurants at Sydney Airport and managing a small team. I was an energetic person who loved to travel and go camping, hanging with friends and family.
I spent 10 months in hospital after my injury, where I went through 2 separate surgeries to fuse my Spinal Cord at C4/5, which resulted in me becoming an incomplete quadraplegic.
My rehab time in hospital was very minimal, as each patient was given a strict time table for the week, resulting in me receiving 1 hour of therapy and being put in slings while my movement was so little.
I also had some movement in my left big toe, but was told not to focus on it, as it was just a spasm. Little did I know that this was the start of my journey to recovery.
I started attending a neuro gym in Lidcombe where I had to get back to the basics. It was like being a baby again, doing things like learning to roll, sit up, and use my arms to practice feeding myself and drinking independently.
In total I was there for 7 years. Over this time, I re-learned how to stand, and then even took my first steps. I then practiced dancing so I could surprise my wife on our wedding day (and to say that she was surprised is an understatement!).
While this was happening, Maryanne (my wife and now RoboFit’s CEO) was researching medical technology and came across Cyberdyne’s HAL exoskeleton at a German medical conference.
After seeing the promise that this technology had, Maryanne and I visited Cyberdyne’s headquarters in Japan multiple times in 2013, 2014 and 2019, where I trained with the HAL exoskeleton.
This training was focused on standing and gait training. In the first week I was able to do a 3-4 metre walk without using HAL, but amazingly after the third week I could complete three laps of a 26 metre track!
It’s been a week with the exoskeleton. How are you finding it?
In my first week of training since we’ve received the exoskeleton in Australia, my legs have been much stronger. We’ve been focusing on training my right side, which is my weaker side after my Spinal Cord Injury.
I’ve built up a tolerance to walking 1km/h, so we’ve decided to bump it up to 2.2km/h, where I’ve found that I can get a bit of a workout! We’ve also lowered the harness so that my feet provide more feedback when they hit the treadmill.
What’s been the biggest challenge when undergoing HAL therapy?
I think the biggest challenge for me is the time it takes to set up initially, and then initially standing up in the robot before moving to the treadmill!. It’s very exciting to finally be able to use this technology, but sometimes I do wish it would just attach to you like “Iron Man” and send you on your way.
Putting my trust in the robot was hard at first, but that feeling quickly disappeared as I was also supported by a safety harness.
What’s been the most rewarding part of the whole experience?
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to try HAL at RoboFit?
Once you’ve been cleared by your GP, I would say give it a go!
There’s nothing to be afraid of. Each individual is harnessed and the HAL Robot is also attached to the harness, so even if you trip whilst training or you feel that you might fall, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re not going anywhere! It can be daunting putting your trust in HAL at first, but you’ll be alright.
The health benefits I have gained since attending RoboFit have been outstanding, not only am I feeling fit and getting stronger in my legs, core and back, but there’s even been bladder and bowel improvements which have been mind blowing for me.
Never say never.