Paralympian helps step up fundraising efforts
Paralympic gold medallist Matthew Skelhon this week walked for the first time in seven years at a fundraising event held at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.
The event was the launch of a fundraising bid raising money to purchase a bionic ‘Ekso’ skeleton suit. The revolutionary piece of equipment has motorised joints and can give paralysed patients a chance to walk again.
Matthew Skelhon, aged 28 and lives in Peterborough, became a patient at the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Northern General after a road traffic accident in 2005 that resulted in losing the use of his legs. Following his accident sport became a major part of his life and he decided to take up sport shooting. After only 18 months in training he went on to win a gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic games in 2008 and he is now getting ready for the games in London this summer.
A demonstration suit was at the fundraising event and Matthew was eager to give it a go. After taking his first steps since his accident he said:
“I was excited but at the same time found it quite daunting. Once I was up, I found it very easy and it felt very natural.”
“It would be amazing if the unit gets one. They do some great work here and this would make it even better.”
Another patient who used the suit for the first time was Sean Butler, 33 from Sheffield. Sean was paralysed in 2007 following a road traffic accident. He was surprised at how easy it was to use saying:
“It was so easy to use. It gave me a sense of normality back and it was great to get back to my normal height and be at eye level with people again.”
As well as being the first time Sean had walked in five years, it was the first time his girlfriend, Lizzie Pawson, had ever seen him walk. Lizzie went on to say:
“I’m used to seeing him in his standing frame, but actually seeing him walking was something completely different and a great experience.”
If the fundraising is successful, the unit could be the first in the country to acquire such a suit. Dr Nazakat Hussain who is a consultant at the Spinal Injuries Unit explained how the ‘Ekso’ has many benefits to patients:
“Exoskeletons are a revolutionary piece of equipment which enables people with paralysis to be able to stand and walk again. Standing and walking have significant physical and psychological benefits.
Physical benefits include improvement in muscle power, better bone health and better blood circulation. Standing also enables people to have face to face conversation and eye to eye contact so they feel more confident in general social environment.”
If you would like to support the work in Spinal Injuries, contact Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 2711351 or visit www.sheffieldhospitalscharity.org.uk where you can make an online donation.