EX-JOCKEY Kristy Banks continues to defy the odds - first she was back in the saddle and now she's walking laps.
With the help of a cutting-edge robotic suit, the leading Toowoomba athlete has taken yet another miraculous step forward after the race fall in 2011 which left her paralysed from the waist down.
ReWalk Robotics partnered with Making Strides rehabilitation centre to bring the $90,000 ReWalk exoskeleton to the Gold Coast where it is helping people living with spinal injuries learn to walk again.
"It was a weird feeling. I felt a little like a robot. It does give you the feeling you are actually walking," Ms Banks said.
As her son Nash watched on beaming, his mother walked two laps of the centre's shed.
She astonished Making Strides co-director and exercise therapist Genny Kroll-Rosen who said most people were unable to walk in the suit the first time.
"She killed it that day. On her first day, we were wanting to get the fit right and make sure she felt comfortable standing, but she decided she was ready to take a walk and try it out," Ms Kroll-Rosen said.
"I was just blown away by her; I love her story. I've seen footage of her riding and it seems there really isn't anything she can't do. I picked that up after meeting her for the first time."
Ms Banks now actively competes in barrel racing competitions.
The Making Strides centre is home to the only two suits in the country after it was given Therapeutic Goods Administration approval to supply the ReWalk for both personal and rehabilitation purposes in December last year.
Ms Kroll-Rosen said the breakthrough technology completely transformed the nature of what a spinal injury was.
"For someone like Kristy who's told, get used to life in your chair, and suddenly she's standing up and walking; it's a game-changer," she said.
"It's hard to say what Kristy will experience, or how the suit will benefit users, but there are massive gains regardless.
"They can be psychological gains like having an eye-to-eye conversation with someone and studies have shown it can help people to regain function.
"I can't say exactly what Kristy will experience, but we want her in it again."
At the moment, Ms Banks uses straight-legged fixed braces, working with upper body strength to propel her forward.
The suit allows a regular walking action.
"It will be a great exercise tool," she said. "I've learned to adapt. There's nothing I can do about it; it's not going to change so I use what I can."
At $90,000 a suit, Ms Banks wasn't sure she'd be ordering her own ReWalk anytime soon, but the breakthrough technology has given her great hope for what she might be able to accomplish in the future.
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