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29 Jun 2022

Funding boost for Donegal charity will lead to revolutionary treatment for patients

No Barriers Foundation to deliver Ireland’s first upper-body exoskeleton therapy

No barriers

Occupational Therapist Sonia McGarvey and Patrick Mc Clean using the EksoUE at The No Barriers Centre in Letterkenny

A Donegal-based charity is on course to provide a revolutionary treatment for people with upper body paralysis.


The No Barriers Foundation in Letterkenny has secured funding for a €20,000 upper body exoskeleton to assist people with upper extremity paralysis or weakness.


This will be the first publicly accessible upper limb exoskeleton in use in Ireland.


The charity, founded by Letterkenny Chartered Physiotherapist Johnny Loughrey, has been pushing the boundaries of neurorehabilitation and exercise since its establishment in 2016.


The centre at Mountain Top Letterkenny already provides affordable access to lower body exoskeleton therapy to enable people with stroke, MS, brain injury or spinal cord injury to stand and walk. 


Earlier this year, the No Barriers centre was fortunate to trial the EksoUE upper limb device to see the benefits it gives to patients. Tested primarily with stroke patients, the EksoUE fully supports a patient’s arm to give them a better range of motion and increased ability to complete tasks during therapy sessions. 


The EksoUE purchase has been made possible by the Bank of Ireland’s Begin Together programme, delivered in partnership with the Community Foundation for Ireland. The Community Fund aims to support initiatives that are improving the financial, mental, or physical well-being of people in local communities.


Marina Kennedy-Quick, Lead Physiotherapist at The No Barriers Foundation, said: “We are over the moon to be in a position to lead out the EksoUE therapy as a first in Ireland. 


“State of the art robotic technology allows us to deliver rehabilitation like no other facility in the country. There are currently five other facilities in Ireland with the Ekso Bionics Exoskeleton for lower limb rehab, but, currently, no upper limb robotic centres in Ireland.


“We are very fortunate to have Sonia McGarvey, an Occupational Therapist who specialises in upper limb therapy, who will deliver the service with the Physiotherapy team.”


Sonia McGarvey said the EksoUE suit is adaptive to assist a wide range of patients and their goals. With the support of the suit, a patient can raise their arms above their head and practice everyday movements required for activities like brushing hair, reaching for a cup off a shelf and hanging clothes out on the line.


McGarvey said: “The suit supports a patient with various arm and shoulder impairments by reducing the gravity load on one or both arms while sitting, standing, or walking. In turn, they have a wider range of motion and can do more in therapy. Using the arm in functional activities and repetitively is the key to recovery and having this suit allows that.”


Johnny Loughrey, Chief Executive of The No Barriers Foundation, said; “We are very thankful to the Bank of Ireland Begin Together programme for the funding, which will help us expand our service. We are delighted to give people the chance to avail of robotic therapy for upper limb rehabilitation in the near future.


“We are continually welcoming new service users at the No Barriers Centre. If you or a family member has had a stroke, spinal injury, MS or any neurological disorder, get in touch and we will help in any way we can.” 


Find out more on nobarriers.ie or email: hello@nobarriers.ie 


See the foundation’s daily activities on No Barriers Foundation Facebook page or follow @thenobarriersfoundation on Instagram

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