ST. LOUIS, Dec. 22, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SoldierStrong, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing advanced medical technologies to veterans, donated an Indego Therapy exoskeleton to the St. Louis Veterans Health Care System on Friday.

Keith Repko, Director, VA St. Louis Health Care System, said the device will have "a transformational impact" on patients rehabilitating from spinal injuries. “This device, which we are so honored and humbled to receive, will impact veterans in a very meaningful and emotional way. The devices transform lives."

Jeff Combs, who suffered 10 shattered vertebrae in a 2012 motorcycle accident as a Marine stationed in California, agreed.  Having already worn the exoskeleton eight times in recent days, he touted the "absolutely incredible" emotional and psychological benefits that accompany physical benefits that the exoskeleton affords.

"Six years ago, I didn't even dream of something like this. I couldn't fathom it. … I'm living again. I'm not spending day to day just wishing," said Combs, who demonstrated the Indego Therapy exoskeleton to the loud applause from hospital staff, family, friends and others at the event. "It gives me something to look forward to. That's something I didn't have before."

Combs said two of his greatest joys have been to stand in his family's Christmas card photo for the first time in six years and to "be able to look people in the eyes when we talk instead of having to look up at the ceiling."

His mother, Norma, said the first four-plus years after Combs' injury were dark days, filled with depression and talk of suicide. "I never gave up praying for his complete return of everything. When I see him walk, I know God has answered that prayer," she said. "I can't thank everyone involved enough. This is changing people's lives."

Dr. Katherine C. Stenson, Spinal Cord Injury Services Center, said the system has had "a very rewarding experience" with exoskeletons in the rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries since 2016. She praised the VA system's leadership for supporting greater use of cutting-edge robotic technology, adding, "I'm so extremely grateful to SoldierStrong for donating this device to the St. Louis spinal cord unit and to Indego for working collaboratively with us."

She said the SoldierStrong-donated device will help a number of veterans in their rehabilitation and to determine who would be candidates to receive their own device for full-time use.

The Therapy+ software suite, included with each Indego Therapy device, incorporates control algorithms based on proven motor learning principles and allows for an individualized, patient-centric training approach where the device responds to a patient’s active contribution and assists in gait only when necessary. Additionally, therapists have a range of customizable settings within the Therapy+ software suite which allow them to further tailor the behavior of the system to specific impairment and gait needs.

“Our veterans deserve the very best medical care available, and we are incredibly proud to see SoldierStrong and the St. Louis Health Care System adding Indego to the range of treatment options accessible to their patients,” Achilleas Dorotheou, head of the human motion and control business unit for Parker Hannifin, in a release from the company. “Combined with our Therapy+ software suite, Indego is becoming an integral tool for clinicians to provide individualized gait therapy sessions to stroke and spinal cord injury patients, and providing a new level of independence.”

Since the nonprofit’s inception following the events of 9/11, SoldierStrong has now surpassed over $2.9 million worth of medical devices in donations that directly help injured veterans. This donation marks the organization’s 18th exoskeleton donation, and 14th exoskeleton donation to the VA system.

“SoldierStrong is ecstatic to reach the milestone of providing over $2.9 million worth of cutting edge medical devices that directly benefit our country’s injured veterans,” said Stephanie Turzanski, executive director of SoldierStrong. “We want to touch as many vets as possible so everyone can have a chance to stand and walk again.”

About VA St. Louis Health Care System
The VA St. Louis Health Care System is part of the VA Heartland Network (VISN 15) which includes, Missouri, southwestern Illinois, and Kansas.  St. Louis VAHCS, the largest tertiary facility in VISN 15, provides highly specialized care for Veterans and is classified as a Complexity Level 1A facility. The Heath Care System provides inpatient and ambulatory care in medicine, surgery, psychiatry, neurology, and rehabilitation, and many other subspecialty areas. It is a two-division facility that serves veterans and their families in east central Missouri and southwestern Illinois. The John Cochran Division, located in midtown St. Louis and has all of the medical center's operative surgical capabilities, the ambulatory care unit, intensive care units, outpatient psychiatry clinics, and expanded laboratory. The Jefferson Barracks Division is a multi-building complex overlooking the Mississippi River in south St. Louis County. It provides psychiatric treatment, spinal cord injury treatment, a nursing home care unit, rehabilitation services, and a rehabilitation domiciliary program for homeless veterans. The St. Louis VAHCS maintains a dual academic affiliation with Washington University Medical School and Saint Louis University School of Medicine along with affiliations with nursing, social work, and several other allied health college and university programs. The John Cochran and Jefferson Barracks Division are undergoing major construction projects that will enable us to better serve veterans' health care needs.
For more information, visit https://www.stlouis.va.gov/locations/Jefferson_Barracks_Division.asp

About Indego
With dedicated therapy and personal use exoskeletons, Indego provides solutions that address the complete continuum of care – from acute rehabilitation to home and community ambulation. Indego Therapy is cleared by the FDA for use with spinal cord injury patients with injury levels C7 to L5, and for individuals with hemiplegia (with motor function of 4/5 in at least one upper extremity) due to cerebrovascular accident (CVA) to perform ambulatory functions in rehabilitation institutions. Indego Personal is cleared by the FDA to enable individuals with spinal cord injury at levels T3 to L5 to perform ambulatory functions in their home and community. The recently released VA memorandum “Revised Clinical Protocol for Issuance of Powered Exoskeleton Devices to Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury” (found at www.sci.va.gov) expands the protocol for veteran evaluation, training and issuance for personal use exoskeletons to all FDA approved devices, including Indego. For more information about Indego, visit www.indego.com 

About Parker Hannifin
Parker Hannifin is a Fortune 250 global leader in motion and control technologies. For more than 100 years the company has engineered the success of its customers in a wide range of diversified industrial and aerospace markets. Learn more at www.parker.com or @parkerhannifin.

About SoldierStrong
SoldierStrong, previously known as SoldierSocks, helps American patriots literally take their next steps forward. Through educational scholarships and by harnessing the most innovative technology in advanced rehabilitation, we help our returning service men and women to continue moving in the only direction they should know – forward. Nearly every dollar SoldierStrong receives goes towards direct support of American patriots so that they can re-acclimate to civilian life. Our organization works to remind those men and women who sacrificed so much that we are forever thankful.
For more information, visit: https://www.soldierstrong.org/

MARCENA GUNTER (VA)
314-609-9229
ERIC WOOLSON (SoldierStrong)
(515) 681-3967