Robots are getting stroke patients back on their feet

72-year-old William Roquemore is back on his feet, after suffering from a stroke seven years ago.

His brain bleed led to a one-year hospital stay and several years of extensive speech, occupational, and physical therapy.

"The doctor told my wife I'd be no more than a vegetable, but I got better!  She didn't see that and said God hadn't shared that yet," says William.


The faith of William, his wife, and loving family have remained strong, even as he struggled to walk, from the stroke. Years later, he joined UTHealth's study under the direction of Dr. Fangshi Zhu to find out if robot-assisted therapy could help. A huge feat for patients at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

"Traditional therapy often involves more than one physical therapist to manually bring your impaired limb to the desired location or trajectories, and this can be it can be very labor intensive, and even unsafe some times for the patient and for the therapist, so thanks to the robotic advances, we now have this cool-looking powered exoskeleton device that is equipped with powerful motors aligned with patient's leg joints that could deliver accurately controlled systems to bring your limb to that desired location," says Dr. Zhu.

RELATED: Breast cancer patient changes career to help patients like her, with lymphedema

A major benefit of robot-assisted therapy is it only takes one therapist to help the patient keep their balance and hold a steady pace. William can't believe it helped him, after all these years and is relieved to finally walk without a cane, because of it.

"It was a very good experience. The whole experience has been really enlightening to me. I'm a mechanically-minded person, and I love technology and so for me to do that, I enjoyed the challenge," says William.

Stroke patients are often told they have one year to recondition their body after a stroke and then that will be as good as it gets. This device sure changed that fate for William.

"It's more like a chronic stroke rehabilitative device, designed more for people from 2-10 years in chronic phase, so you'd see a little bit slower recovery rate, but you do see they're making changes, especially if you're using it long-term," explains Dr. Zhu.

RELATED: Houston Astros players back local boy with complicated brain tumor

The hope is it will treat patients faster, with obvious results starting to show up within a week or two! William is living his life to the fullest now, truly able to enjoy his gardening and other passions. "I'm back in technology, computers every day, so it's like it never happened," exclaims William.

Dr. Zhu says a new softer form of an exoskelton could be in the works. It would be easier for patients to use and more affordable as well.

For more information, click here.