Jennifer beats odds and walks again thanks to robotic suit

Jennifer Smyth trials her new ReWalk exoskeleton, donated by Landmarc Support Services
Jennifer Smyth trials her new ReWalk exoskeleton, donated by Landmarc Support Services

Londonderry woman Jennifer Smyth, who was left paralysed after a gymnastics accident when she was 16, is closer to being able to walk again, thanks to a life-changing piece of equipment.

After her accident in 2013, there was a period where Jennifer could only communicate by blinking, having lost the power in her entire body.

However since then, the Eglinton woman has gone on to defy the odds with her physical achievements.

Much of this has been aided by a mammoth fundraising effort by her local community

However, just before Christmas, Jennifer was given news that she’d never dreamt of.

Thanks to Landmarc Solutions, her late father’s employers, Jennifer became the first person in Northern Ireland to own a robotic exoskeleton. At a cost of £60,000 the ReWalk 6.0 allows Jennifer to stand up and walk independently.

“I still can’t believe I have it,” said Jennifer.

“I just wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to have this because of the cost, but when Landmarc Solutions asked me if I wanted the suit, I couldn’t believe it.”

Jennifer is currently learning how to use the suit and helping her body adapt to using it, as she explained: “At the minute, it’s more of a training thing so I’m using it once or twice a week but it’s just the most amazing feeling.

“To be able to have the option to stand up if I want to, is just great and it’s hard work getting used to it but it’s totally worth it.”

Eventually, Jennifer is hoping to be able to use the suit every day.

She’s currently studying product design at Birmingham City University and hopes eventually to be able to design mobility products for people who need them.

“I’d really like to do that because I think the design elements of things like wheelchair and other mobility items is fascinating,” she said.

As she continues on her journey to walk again Jennifer is looking forward to spending time in America where she will undergo intensive physical work,

“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go to the Nextstep Orlando Paralysis Recovery Centre where they specialise in intense physiotherapy.

“It’s really good and that’s something I’m looking ahead to in 2018.

“I’m really grateful that I have all these opportunities and the robotic suit is going to make a massive difference.”