Humans are susceptible through several biological mechanisms to the grievous fate of severe physical disability. Considering the conditions of spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Guillain-Barre syndrome, transverse myelitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, motor neuron disease, and muscular dystrophy, we found (by reviewing 37 population studies and epidemiological analyses) that the world contains between ~78 and ~86 million people whose lives have been re-defined by a horrible moment. Every year, approximately 29 million people worldwide enter the above ranks. In the USA alone, between ~9 and ~11.5 million people suffer, and over 1 million people are freshly injured or ailed every year.
Following a loss of mobility and independence one typically pursues, against the odds, a fruitful recovery. An overwhelming majority of the individuals belonging to the population defined above lose the ability to walk. Naturally, they are offered a certain (limited) amount of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The problem that we aim to solve is the predominantly inaccessible state of one of the most proven forms of physical therapy that exists for this population. Very few people fighting for recovery receive this therapy.
Said therapy is gait training with weight bearing, or the act of catalyzing the walking motion for a disabled person. The proven benefits of gait training are:
For individuals who cannot hold themselves up, or who cannot help enough with the process of walking to do so in a walker with assistance from a trainer (who is also concerned with guarding them from falling), then their only options are robotic methods, treadmill based harnessing systems, or several people helping all at once. The machines which currently enable gait training for people with little to no function are prohibitively expensive (~$500,000 for the best, ~$70,000 for the cheapest). And even if someone can find a clinic which is able to utilize gait training interventions with them, the high cost of physical therapy means for most that when insurance ceases paying, they cease recovering.
Gathering data from a small focus group of physical therapists and PT students in their clinical phase, we asked them to quantify the importance of gait training on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being great importance). The average score was 9.3. Research supports this score as well.
Our vision is to make an impact in the neurologically disabled community that is felt. The AmbulAid Class I medical device is an incredibly simple, intuitive mechanical solution for a problem that has so far only been met well with high-tech solutions. It has the potential to fill the atrocious void that currently exists below the expensive gait training machines.
To illustrate three common examples of current high-tech offerings, watch the following three videos. Shown first is the LokoMat. It costs ~$250,000, requires training to operate, a ~15 minute set-up time, and cannot be sold to individuals.
Next is a robotic exoskeleton. The cheapest current model costs ~$70,000. It requires months of training to become competent with, and takes about 8 minutes to put on.
Last, we have the TheraStride representing the class of treadmill-based harnessing systems. These cost ~$100,000, require training, and take about 8 minutes to set up. They also demand the most man-power. Typically, on trainer is needed for each leg, one for stabilizing the core, and one to operate the computer controls.
If the clinic cannot afford the above machines or if there is a patient bottleneck for time on them, the physical therapist may settle for a sloppy, slow version of gait training referred to to “direct manipulation.” An example below:
The patient sacrifices cadence, form, and speed. They execute far fewer step cycles, cover less ground, and work much harder to stay upright for longer.
That therapists have had to take these shortcuts for so long simply because there isn’t a simple mechanical solution is baffling.
To see the AmbulAid in action, head on over to our videos page.