Trexo Robotics was inspired by a deeply personal experience that my family and I faced (see Trexo’s story). A few years ago, back then still an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, I learnt that my nephew was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Like many families learning of these news, we had a lot to learn about cerebral palsy and had a lot of questions as to how it would impact little Praneit as he grew.
How Praneit become the inspiration for us to build an exoskeleton
Broadly speaking, cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect motor skills, movements and muscle tone but for each individual cerebral palsy can be a completely different condition. There is a lot of variability in how cerebral palsy affects each person. In Praneit’s case, it was severe enough to affect his walking, sitting and standing. This meant that he would spend a large part of his life in a wheelchair (read more about the effects of sitting). After researching, we soon realized the negative health effects that are associated with inactivity, such as reduced muscle tone, bone degradation, and cardiovascular disease.
These events sparked my interest to look for a solution to assist his walking. But we soon found out that the options were really limited. That is when Rahul and I decided to use our robotics knowledge and background and build something for him. In 2016, we finally managed to bring an early version of the Trexo Plus prototype to India for Praneit to try. Thinking back on that event, it was an incredibly proud moment for us. That was one of the first milestones Trexo Robotics reached as a company.
Imagine how excited we were when Praneit came to visit us at Trexo this past month. For the first time since that day in 2016, he would finally walk again using the Trexo Plus. Things were different this time though, the Trexo Plus is almost ready for clinical use and is not the same early proof of concept Praneit tried 2 years ago. The anticipation was holding everyone in the room!
Praneit walks with the new Trexo Plus
The whole team was excited when Praneit’s family arrived to the Trexo Robotics office. Praneit to the team is not just my nephew. He is the muse behind our work. He represents to us all the kids whose lives we’re trying to improve. As we put him into the device, everyone held their breath to see if he liked it.
At first, Praneit was uncertain what this weird contraption was that he was being put into. It took us a few tries to set the walker up perfectly so that he would be comfortable.
Holding the control tablet, I slowly released the emergency stop on the device. As I tapped the start button on the device, the right leg slowly began moving forward. The rhythmic motion of the Trexo legs could be heard as the rest of the room watched silently. What happened next was truly amazing.
Some experiences make you smile. This was one of them.
As the legs moved, one in front of the other, Praneit’s sad face suddenly changed into a big smile. The walking seemed to have a calming effect on him and he continued to smile throughout the entire 250 steps he took! This was the most he had ever walked!
What’s next with Praneit
Whenever we share the story of our company, there are always a number of questions that come up: “So does your nephew use the device to walk around?” and “Has he been trying the device the past two years?”. The answer until now has been “no”.
While in Toronto, Praneit tried the Trexo Plus in 4 consecutive sessions in a period of one week. Every time as the legs would start moving, Praneit would share with us a big smile. During these sessions, we increased the amount of weight bearing Praneit took, the duration of the sessions and the speed at which he walked.
We’re so glad that Praneit was able to finally try the device again. Now, when people ask us for an update on Praneit’s story, we will proudly share with them the time Praneit did laps around our office in our first Trexo Plus. Then one day soon, we will change that response to “Praneit has been walking around in the Trexo at home every day to get his daily physical activity, crushing his goals every time”.
Did our story inspire you?
This September, put your daily walking goals to the test and take part in Steptember. Steptember is an annual fundraising event that raises funds for cerebral palsy research and services.
If you’re interested in learning more about cerebral palsy, there are many excellent resources available online. A good resource is the Cerebral Palsy Alliance website.
By: Manmeet Maggu