ReWalk to freedom

It is a cliche to salute Israel as a land of miracles — Ruth Wisse observes more originally in the context of Passover that “modern Israel represents an immense human accomplishment that may even go beyond the prophetic vision” — but for a tiny country it has staked out an improbable position at the forefront of many life-saving and life-enhancing technologies. In the New York Daily News Matthew Kalman provides a glimpse of President Obama’s exposure to one such technology during his visit to Jerusalem yesterday:

She was the surprise star attraction in an exhibit of the latest in Israeli technology.

Theresa Hannigan, a paralyzed retired U.S. Army sergeant from Long Island, found herself bear-hugged by President Obama Thursday as she showed how she regained the power to walk.

Hannigan suffers from a neurological auto-immune disease, but with ReWalk, a $60,000 bionic suit invented by Israeli scientists, she can even climb stairs.

The exoskeleton suit uses computers and motion sensors to allow paraplegics to walk with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement. It made headlines last year when British athlete Clare Lomas became the first paraplegic to walk the London Marathon.

Hannigan, 60, of Patchogue, told Obama she was introduced to it by Dr. Anne Spungen at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in the Bronx. When she put on the suit it was “beyond words,” she said.

“I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe that what they were telling me was true — that I was going to be able to press a button and simply stand,” she told the Daily News.

“Please tell me how you’re standing, tell me how this works,” asked the President.

After listening to her explain her tale, he made her day.

“He said ‘Oh,’ and that’s when he came over and hugged me,” said the delighted vet. “I thought: ‘Oh my God, the President of the United States gets it and he’s hugging me.’ He just came right at me and gave me a bear hug like your father would give you.”

The Daily News runs the story with the touching photo below. ReWalk’s informative post on the demonstration for President Obama yesterday is here.

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