On June 2018 the Veteran Affairs administration shared the Exoskeleton Memorandum which allows qualified veterans to receive their own Indego exoskeleton. To trial and become trained on the Indego exoskeleton system, veterans are requested to visit one of 25 spinal cord-specialized VA Medical centers. In a recent article by John Archiquette, Public Affairs Specialist at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System (VASNHS), Mr. Archiquette outlines the importance of veterans receiving training while remaining at home.
Archiquette writes about Mark Christianson who served more than twenty years in the military, serving both in the U.S. Navy (Vietnam era) and retiring from the U.S. Army, as a Green Beret. After surgery, to remove a tumor from his spinal cord that left him partially paralyzed, Christianson dedicated himself to his recovery. His goal has and continues to be to walk again. During this process, he worked with VA doctors and therapists around the southwestern United States, testing devices and techniques. In March 2019, during a session with therapists at the VA Palo Alto (Calif.) Health Care System, Christianson tried the Indego powered exoskeleton system for the first time. For Christianson, the Indego exoskeleton system was the perfect device to meet his goals.
To qualify for the Indego system, a veteran must receive 30-40 hours of training, with the device, and under the supervision of a certified Indego specialist. Furthermore, users require a support person that is able to commit a sufficient amount of time to work with the user as they train on the unit. While Christianson was dedicated, traveling back and forth from his home in Las Vegas, NV to Palo Alto, CA, for therapy/training was not very realistic, nor very cost-effective for the VA. Receiving this type of training and therapy at the veteran’s local facility, maintains their continuity of care.
Christianson suggested to his local facility, the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center, that they become an Indego-certified facility so that he and other area veterans could do their training locally. Keeping the veteran in their home, working with their assigned therapists and having the capability of having their support team available for flexible schedules just made the most sense to Christianson. His efforts have paid off and he now gets to do his training with the staff he has a relationship with and without all the time and expense of traveling to an out of state facility along with his support person, his wife. His wife is now able to work with him on a regular basis at their local VA.
By making VASNHS a qualified training facility, Indego instructors worked alongside VASNHS physical therapists, providing them with hands-on training with the device and showing them how to properly conduct trials with qualified Veterans. “This is my first time working with the Indego system, but not my first time seeing it,” said Mark Mabida, a VASNHS physical therapist who has been working closely with Christianson on another medical device that he uses to build muscle. “We expressed a lot of interest in working with the Indego system, but we were just waiting to get the approval for the opportunity, as we are spoke site.”
Due to the combined efforts of Christianson, Indego instructors, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and VASNHS physical therapists, the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center is now a certified training site for the Indego powered exoskeleton system. By providing this opportunity to more qualified veterans from their local VAs, they too will be able to experience the benefits Indego can provide to recovery and the overall quality of life of veterans.
This article was contributed by Jen Tschoepe, PT, DPT, NCS is an Indego Instructor with the Janz Corporation, A Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado in 2010, and her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Regis University in 2014. After completion of her Doctorate, Jen went on to Boston University to complete a Post-Doctoral Neurological Residency Program and became a certified neurologic clinical specialist (NCS) in 2016. Since then, Jen has been focused on working with patients with neurological conditions. Now as an Indego Instructor, Jen works with clinicians and patients around the US educating on the use and benefits of the Indego exoskeleton.