Defying the odds to walk again

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Two wheelchair-bound crash victims can walk again thanks to pioneering technology at a Sheffield clinic

Matthew Baynham and Weina Yu were told they would never walk again – but, thanks to hard work and a pioneering ‘wearable robot’, they have achieved what was never thought possible.

Ms Yu and exoskeleton

Ms Yu and exoskeleton

Matthew, aged 23, from Wombwell, Barnsley, was riding his motorcycle when he was hit by a car almost two years ago. The accident left him with paraplegia and doctors told him he would never walk again.

Despite this, Matthew said he ‘intended on walking regardless’ and is now planning to walk down the aisle for his brother’s upcoming wedding.

He began working with physiotherapists Rebecca Bancroft and Anna Wilkinson at Sheffield’s More Rehab clinic.

Matthew said: “These guys have helped a great deal, I have worked with Anna and they keep on pushing me.”

Recently, More Rehab has rented one of only two robotic exoskeletons currently used in the UK – and both Matthew and Weina have used the futuristic technology to walk unaided.

Weina had come to England from China to study when she was involved in a serious car accident near Stoke-on-Trent four years ago.

She suffered a severe spinal cord injury in her neck affecting both her arms and legs.

The 27-year-old decided to move to Sheffield because of the quality of care that was on offer and began working with More Rehab.

Physio Anna said: “Weina shouldn’t be able to walk with the level of her injury and would not normally be accepted for the exoskeleton, but has done so well.

“She has defied expectation. For Weina to be able to stand up and walk is amazing, she hasn’t been able to walk for four years.

“Weina is so determined, even when she is tired she won’t stop. That is why she has got as far as she has.”

Weina said she refused to believe doctors when they told her she would not be able to walk and has remained determined throughout her recovery.

And last September she opened her own children’s day nursery, Banana Moon, on Broomgrove Road, Broomhill, Sheffield.

Weina said: “The physiotherapy is helping me in my work, life and in everything else. Without More Rehab it wouldn’t be possible to run my own business.”

The exoskeleton – or Fred as it has been nicknamed – is essentially a wearable battery-powered robot that is strapped over a user’s clothing, enabling them to achieve greater levels of mobility, strength and endurance.

And now, after seeing the benefits it can offer patients with spinal injuries, More Rehab, based on Abbeydale Road, Woodseats, hopes to eventually purchase one of its own.