Great strides are being made to help people who are paralyzed to walk again. Most people believe it is just a matter of time and research until paralysis can be cured. In the meantime, progress is being made to help paraplegics walk. Generally, these mechanical systems are referred to as exoskeletons. Wikipedia defines an exoskeleton as:
“A powered exoskeleton, also known as powered armor, exoframe, or exosuit, is a mobile machine consisting primarily of an outer framework (akin to an insect’s exoskeleton) worn by a person, and powered by a system of motors or hydraulics that delivers at least part of the energy for limb movement.”
Right now it is my understanding that the individuals having the opportunity to use these devices must meet certain criteria. Requirements include age, height and weight, degree of fitness and level of injury. At 6’4″, 250 pounds, 71 years old and the complete C6 quadriplegic, it is obvious; I do not meet the criteria. However, I still have and use an exoskeleton. It is called a power wheelchair and it’s a damn good thing I have two of them. Without one of these exoskeletons I cannot move about at all.
During hunting seasons the exoskeleton I use the most is my four-wheel-drive wheelchair. For a power wheelchair it’s very old. 12 years old to be exact. When it’s working I can pursue my passion which is hunting and being in the out of doors. For those of you who mistakenly believe the purpose of hunting is to kill animals I’d like to try and set things straight. Hunting is about spending time in the environment you love. An environment that shares her mysteries with you as you spend more time with her. Watching leaves spiraling down in the wind while rays of sunlight reflect off their surface, making them look like twinkling stars. Hearing coyotes, yip and howl as they gather together to begin their evening hunt. There is always something to observe while sitting for hours in a blind. You are out there matching wits against natures wiliest of creatures. To them, I’m just another predator. They don’t care that I’m in a wheelchair, they don’t care that I fire my weapon with my mouth and they don’t care I sit in one spot for hours or days matching my skills against theirs.
So not having access to this wheelchair severely impacts my quality of life. While I have another chair, which I probably use 80% of the time, it would be useless in the places I really wish to go. This exoskeleton is for those who want to be on pavement or spend time in a shopping mall or stay-at-home and watch TV. I believe it’s difficult for able-bodied people to truly understand the importance of the wheelchair in the disabled person’s life. It truly is our exoskeleton providing access to the world and I hope it can be fixed quickly.