“The first steps were a dream”: after 4 years of paralysis Michel Roccati started walking again thanks to a device created by a research group coordinated by the Polytechnic University of Lausanne (Epfl), in which Italy also participated with Silvestro Micera, who works between the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa and Epfl. In just one day he started walking again, now he goes up and down the stairs, swims and aims, in spring, to cover at least a kilometer.
“The first steps were something incredible”, Michel, 30 years old from Montaldo Torinese, tells ANSA, recounting his experience within a research program that involved 2 other volunteers with the aim of being able to return the ability to move for those who have been paralyzed due to spinal trauma. Roccati was a victim of it 4 years ago after a motorcycle accident caused by an animal that had crossed his road then, about a year ago, “I learned that they were looking for volunteers for this experiment and I wrote an email to be able to be part of it, not I knew almost nothing else. ” In August, he underwent surgery in which electrodes were implanted in his spine and a device in his abdomen that collects incoming data from a tablet. After the post-operative convalescence Michel went to the Epfl laboratories, “after just one day of training I took the first steps and soon after I walked”, he explains with some emotion. In the beginning he was supported by a harness that helped him to support himself today he is completely free, has recovered 50% of his muscle tone and is able to get up, walk, go up and down stairs and even swim. “On the tablet – Roccati says – I have a program to choose for each function, at that point the stimulus starts and I do the same with the brain. By combining the signal produced by my brain with that of the device, everything works better.
Every day I improve myself and the system on which I can make changes to improve it. “In these cold months Michel is training mainly in the garage by commanding and doing tests and exercises, in the spring the goal is to walk longer and reach the kilometer. “The device can still be improved and I will be even happier when everything is further miniaturized and one of his great dreams is that the same device can finally be marketed and made available to everyone”, concludes Roccati.