Bionic suit helps paralyzed student stand, walk again

Bionic suit helps paralyzed student stand, walk again

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Walking - it's something most of us take for granted.

But not Mary Beth Davis, whose life changed when a car accident broke her neck and left her paralyzed four-years ago.

"It's something hard to swallow," she says, about hearing she would never walk again.

But instead of sticking to her wheelchair, Wednesday she puts on a bionic suit.

And she stands, then walks, with the help of the suit's motors at her knees and hips.

After years in the chair, she's back to full height.

"You appreciate it more that you get to talk to people standing at eye level," she said.

The exoskeleton suit, nicknamed "Murphy," is one of 12 suits in the U.S., according to the physical therapists with the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Clinic.

They say it cost around $170,000.

Mary Beth and a small team of physical therapists show Murphy off to a technology class at Deer Creek Middle School, demonstrating how the suit responds to shifts from her upper body.

Students eagerly follow her through the hallways as she walks.

"She can walk around even though she's paralyzed in her legs, that's pretty cool," said student Mason Martin.

"I think it's pretty brave that she has gone through all this and how she's come out pretty much in better spirits then when she went in," said student Ellie Shume.

Mary Beth shows the kids the car she drives herself. She can get in an out in about a minute, dismantling her wheelchair and pulling herself in with her arms. The bionic suit belongs to the clinic, so she still uses her chair on a daily basis.

The lesson of the day? How technology can change lives.

"The future is limitless so who knows what it'll be whenever they're out of college in 8 years," said technology teacher Jamie Brehm.

And another, equally important lesson: how a college student, told she'd never walk again, found a way to march toward her future.

"It's not the same as walking as I remember it used to be, but it comes pretty close," Mary Beth said.


She plans to borrow the suit from the clinic for OSU graduation next month. That way she can walk across the stage to accept her diploma.

After graduation, Mary Beth plans to apply to veterinary school.
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