Claire Lomas was a professional event horse rider, in England, until a freak accident in 2007, paralyzed her from the chest down. For five years she wasn’t able to walk, wasn’t able to feel her legs and spend most of her time in a wheelchair.
That all changed in January 2012, when she started walking again, thanks to an Israeli-made bionic suit called ReWalk, “a commercial bionic walking assistance system that uses powered leg attachments to enable paraplegics to stand upright, walk and climb stairs.
The system is powered by a backpack battery, and is controlled by a simple wrist-mounted remote which detects and enhances the user’s movements.”
Designed by Amit Goffer, in Yokneam, Israel, the ReWalk is marketed by ReWalk Robotics (originally Argo Medical Technologies.)
Each time she steps forward, her suit hisses similar to a sound from Robocop. The ReWalk and two canes support her, and the suit senses when she wants to walk and shifts her weight for her. But it’s not easy. Each day, when she started, she could take only 30 steps. Every moment was a chore, and because she couldn’t feel when she was standing, she always feared falling over.
But that didn’t stop her. In April 2012, Lomas set out to participate in the 32nd Virgin London Marathon, a fete which required her completing the 26.2 miles or 42km track in 55,000 steps.
She started, alongside 35,000 runners and after 17 days, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, she finished — to the screams of thousands of fans who came out to support her.
“It’s a moment I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life,” she said in a nationally televised, live interview with the BBC after she crossed. “The support here has been incredible – I didn’t expect it here like this. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up this morning in the taxi to start, and I thought it was just a busy day in London. Someone told me they’re all there for me. I was like, no!”