The thrill of walking After 24 years in a wheelchair, a chance at ‘miracle’

2013-10-26 00:00

WALKING may seem like a mundane activity most of us do without thinking. However, for Taniel Webb of Greytown, walking is a dream come true.

After being wheelchair-bound for 24 years, Webb recently got to experience the thrill of walking, thanks to a bionic suit.

Webb lost the use of her legs and left arm in a car accident when she was eight years old. She has been in a wheelchair ever since.

This year, a company in Johannesburg called Just Walk Bionics opened a unique rehabilitation centre. It allows people with lower extremity paralysis or weakness to walk again by means of a bionic suit. The suit, known as Ekso, was brought from America by Just Walk founder Justin Smith.

Smith is an incomplete quadriplegic. He experienced walking in the suit in America after being determined to walk again and set out to bring the experience to South Africans in similar situations to him.

Just Walk and the Ekso suit have helped Webb stand up straight and walk, an experience she says is “indescribable”. Her mother Antoinette was there to share in Webb’s joy.

“We found out about Just Walk when Taniel’s aunt phoned and told us about it. I phoned them up and they told me to bring her. When they strapped her into the suit she was bent over. Then the suit went beep and she stood up in front of me. Her eyes were level with mine and she said ‘Wow Mom, I did not realise I was this tall!’ I just wanted to cry. It was an emotional experience,” said Antoinette.

For Webb, the experience was unforgettable and she would love to do it again: “It was just amazing! I walked for the first time. I can’t really explain it; it was like experiencing a miracle.”

Walking in the suit was difficult at first for Webb, as it worked muscles she had not used in decades. One crutch had to be strapped in her left hand with velcro because she could not hold it on her own, but according to Webb it was all worth it. The experience has also motivated her on a personal level.

“I have been inspired by my walk. I now do biokinetic exercises to help make me stronger. Everyone in this situation should try this,” Webb told Weekend Witness.

According to the Just Walk information booklet, the Ekso suit is a battery- operated, wearable suit that acts as an exoskeleton for the wearer. It is essentially a bionic walking suit that walks for the wearer and can help exercise the body in ways normal therapy cannot. It is not readily available yet, which is why Just Walk offers people a chance to experience it.


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.