Introducing: Maryanne Harris

RoboFit is the culmination of an eight-year long journey for husband and wife duo Maryanne Harris and Daniel Hillyer. With a exercise science degree behind her, Maryanne became curious about the future of rehabilitation, coming across some promising technology from Cyberdyne, based in Japan. This interest led Daniel and Maryanne to labs and conferences all over the world, and the development of a partnership with Cyberdyne.

Tell us about your background

I studied at University of Wollongong, initially in the Engineering faculty before finding my way into a Bachelor of Exercise Science.

Briefly give us a recap of your lived experience with Spinal Cord Injury that brought us to this point.

In 2010 while studying at university of wollongong my boyfriend Daniel (now husband) had a spinal cord injury. Overnight we entered a new world, starting with a lengthy 10 month long hospital stay for Dan. During his hospital stay there was little conversation around neuroplasticity, and the focus of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation was to see how Dan could adjust to his new normal. That became our ground zero. From this point, we began researching spinal cord injury rehabilitation options and this began our journey!

Tell us about your experiences travelling to Germany & Japan. Were you expecting to find the technology to be as effective as it is?

Daniel and I have kept an open mind throughout this journey. Since there isn’t a cure for paralysis yet, Dan’s SCI has mainly been done to improve his independence.

You’ve now brought the tech over to Australia - what was the biggest challenge?

There are so many hurdles to overcome in starting a new business, from agreements, to TGA approvals, finding the right space for example. Daniel and I have been fortunate to have a great team that has worked to bring RoboFit to fruition and overcome any challenges we face.

What’s been the most rewarding part of the experience of RoboFit so far?

Our launch event was great. Seeing the room filled with attendees, as well as family, friends and the RoboFit team was amazing.

There was a moment where after introducing the business, and the technology, Dan walked out while wearing HAL to do the demonstration. After being told in June 2010 that he wouldn’t be moving from the neck down, being able to completely shatter that expectation and push forward to regain control of his life was incredible.

As Dan walked, he was applauded by everyone in the room, in recognition of just how hard he’s worked and how far he’s come.

That has been the most rewarding moment for me so far. Seeing Dan’s hard work as he shared RoboFit with the community and demonstrated why we should never say never.

What’s next for RoboFit?

While it took 8 years to get the technology here, our team has been working hard on some very exciting projects that will continue to help people access assistive technology that drives neuroplasticity and improves their independence.

From our launch in April our team has made a lot of progress. We encourage anyone who wants to remain part of the RoboFit community to subscribe to our newsletter. That’s where we will be first sharing news.

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