March 13 - A robotic device that allows paralyzed people to stand up is being hailed as a potential breakthrough for the severely disabled. The machine, developed by a team in Turkey, allows paraplegics greater mobility and independence then ever before. Jim Drury reports.
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Yusuf Akturkoglu on his regular trip to the supermarket.
(Natsot - item drops into basket)
Nothing remarkable in this, perhaps....until you realise that Yusuf is a paraplegic, walking without the assistance of carers.
Yusuf is strapped into the Tek Robotic Mobilisation Device, a machine that has transformed his life.
The standing wheelchair was devised by a team of Turkish scientists, led by Necati Hacikadiroglu.
SOUNDBITE (Turkish) INVENTOR OF TEK ROBOTIC DEVICE, NECATI HACIKADIROGLU, SAYING:
"We've developed a device that enables paralysed people to move through narrow passages, sit on a chair like you and I do, use the washrooms that we use, wash their hands and do their own shopping. It provides them with the opportunity to live in places not designed for paralysed people."
Regular wheelchairs can only be front-mounted. Whenever a user has to get off a toilet or bed they must lift their body with their arms and throw themselves onto their wheelchairs. It's difficult to complete without assistance and is sometimes dangerous.
The Tek offers few such difficulties. It can be summoned by remote control and users strap themselves in before hoisting themselves into a standing position with relative ease.
A joystick enables them to navigate.
Twenty-seven-year-old Yusuf was paralysed after falling from a horse five years ago.
Selected to test the Tek at home, he says he's rediscovered his independence.
SOUNDBITE (Turkish) PARAPLEGIC PATIENT, YUSUF AKTURKOGLU, SAYING:
"It's wonderful to stand up because we spend our lives sitting. We can stand up if somebody helps and that happens once a day or maybe twice, if somebody is around. If not, we don't get up. But by using this device, I can get up whenever I want. This device helps me to get mobilised. I can go to the kitchen and do whatever I want. I feel free."
The Tek was devised by Istanbul-based research and development company AMS Mekatronic.
It's rechargeable and must be charged every three days.
The product has undergone clinical trials, and is being praised by doctors. They say it can help prevent unwanted health problems faced by most paralysed people, such as pressure sores, diabetes, and heart disease through poor circulation.
Commercial sales are some way off, but Yusuf says he hopes to be reading about the Tek in the not too distant future.
Jim Drury, Reuters
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