Paralyzed Patients Learning to Walk Again Using Robotic Exoskeleton

“I feel very futuristic,” said Derrik Amaral, who is paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident.

Two men left paralyzed after suffering spinal cord injuries are learning to walk again, thanks to a robotic exoskeleton they control with their minds.

"I feel very futuristic," said Derrik Amaral, a 33-year-old patient at Brooks Rehabilitation in Florida.

Amaral, who used to work as a hospital caretaker, was rear-ended in 2013. Immediately, emergency responders knew something was wrong.

"I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move anything and it took a long time for me to talk," he told "The first words out of my mouth were, 'Would I ever walk again?'"

Doctors later revealed that he had broken his neck in three places, and would be paralyzed for life.

Amaral took the news poorly, and had a hard time adjusting to his new way of life after spending six months in the ICU.

“I didn’t understand — how could I go from taking care of people to now having people take care of me and losing my independence?" he said.

Over the next several years, Amaral worked hard at physical therapy and graduated to a power wheelchair.

When he was approached with the opportunity to be one of the first people in the United States to test out HAL, a new treatment based on an exoskeleton, Amaral jumped at the opportunity. 

Developed by Cyberdyne, Inc., the exoskeleton is outfitted to a patient’s legs and can be controlled neurologically. The goal is for the user to retrain their mind, by mimicking the brain function necessary to move their own limbs as they move the exoskeleton.

Maverick Moody, 26, the only other patient currently testing out HAL, said the new technology has helped him make great strides in his rehabilitation.

"All these movements and everything I was attempting to do, we really did not know if I was making the right movements or triggering the right muscle," Moody told "But with HAL, you can actually see directly, 'OK, I’m triggering the right muscles.'"

Moody was paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident in 2015.

"I woke up face-down on the ground and went to flip over and stand up," he explained. "When I did, I realized I couldn’t feel my legs."

Other than intense pain, Moody said he didn’t remember much about the accident or its aftermath.

One thing he will never forget was the doctor breaking the bad news.

“My life’s over," Moody said. "It’s just absolutely devastating to hear that news and you’re hoping you’re going to wake up and it's all a nightmare, but it's not. I’ve still never accepted it. I’m going to take it to my grave that I’m going to walk one day."

While he has spent months doing physical rehabilitation, Moody said he’s made the most progress in his short time experimenting with HAL.

Moody is now nearly able to walk unassisted, without any help from physical therapists.

"I’m extremely hopeful for the future for my walking," Moody said.