Big steps for Boxtel | AspenTimes.com
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Big steps for Boxtel

Story and photos by Leigh Vogel
The Aspen Times
Amanda Boxtel walks out of the Carbondale Recreation Center with the help of her new Ekso suit, a robotic, exoskeleton device that was purchased with the help of children from Camp Run-a-Muk.

More than 100 Roaring Fork Valley residents showed up Tuesday to rally for Amanda Boxtel as the Basalt resident embarked on one of her most important walks in decades.

The walk — which spanned a few hundred feet from just inside the entrance doors of the Carbondale Recreation Center, outside, down the sidewalk and back — marked the first time many friends had seen the 5-foot, 7-inch Boxtel stand and walk. It was also the first time many of them had ever spoken with her face to face.

“This endeavor was so much more than about me,” Boxtel said. “It was about the children (who helped raise funds for Boxtel), inspiring philanthropy in them. They could see that they could make a difference in someone else’s life. They got it. They understood.

“It’s also about sharing with the public the technology and the potential for this technology to improve the quality of life.”

Boxtel, 45, born in Australia, was paralyzed from the waist down during a ski accident 21 years ago in the Aspen-Snowmass area and has relied upon a wheelchair for mobility ever since. At Tuesday’s event, she walked with the help of an Ekso, an exoskeleton device that uses battery-powered motors that replace neuromuscular function.

“Once Amanda is standing, she has control over the device,” said Craig Newsom, a physical therapist for ASO Bionics, maker of the device, who stood by her side throughout the entire event.

Boxtel was outfitted with the Ekso suit and, upon standing and walking, passed by children and adults who cheered and smiled, with tears streaming down their faces.

Boxtel has been working with Ekso Bionics for several years. Children from Camp Run-a-Muk helped raise funds by selling lemonade. Many of the children attended the event and helped Boxtel open a massive box that contained her new equipment.

Boxtel will work with two local therapists when using the device.

“It is not a mobility device,” Newsom said.

“The goal of her use of the product is therapeutic,” he said. “There are a lot of restrictions on how the device will be operated safely. It can only be operated on dry, solid and most level ground. Up to a 2 percent grade.”

He said that Boxtel has reported that she has better circulation throughout her body and less pain and swelling. The device also helps individuals who have experienced incomplete spinal-cord injuries and strokes.

“It is a tool to get people up and walking earlier than usual,” he said.

For more information on Ekso, visit http://www.eksobionics.com


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