Wearable Robot Helps People Walk Again

Exoskeleton that has enabled over 125 million steps around the world now available in central Virginia

exoskeleton with physical rehabilitationRICHMOND, Va. (May 18, 2021) – Sheltering Arms Institute, a collaboration with VCU Health, and Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Centers are enhancing their rehabilitation programs by now offering the EksoNR™ robotic exoskeleton to help patients who have experienced neurological illness or injury learn to walk again.

Sheltering Arms Institute is the first inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Virginia to have an EksoNR clinical program. The Sheltering Arms outpatient location in Hanover has also acquired an EksoNR, providing hospital patients the opportunity to continue using the device on an outpatient basis as they progress in their recovery.

Each year, nearly 60 million people suffer from acquired brain injury, 15 million suffer a stroke, and as many as 500,000 experience a spinal cord injury (SCI). EksoNR is the first exoskeleton approved by the FDA for use with stroke and spinal cord injuries and the only exoskeleton with FDA approval for use with acquired brain injury patients.

“The EksoNR offers many unique benefits to our patients who are relearning to walk, as the device promotes early mobilization and can help improve gait speed and distance, which are critical factors for optimal recovery,” said Amber Walter, PT, DPT, NCS, clinical science manager at Sheltering Arms Institute.

The wearable robotic device offers patients upper trunk support and the opportunity to practice over-ground walking early on in their recovery process, retraining the brain and muscles how to properly walk again. This cutting-edge exoskeleton technology helps patients re-learn correct step patterns, weight shifting, and posture. Additionally, this device has shown promising results in walking speed, endurance, lower extremity strength, and functional mobility for persons with spinal cord injury.

Clinical evidence suggests that including EksoNR gait training in inpatient rehabilitation for stroke improves independence in functional mobility. Most patients take an average of 400 steps during first-time training in the device, including 48-year-old Calesta “CW” Saunders, Jr. who suffered an anterior spinal cord stroke in February.

“I woke up in the middle of the night with abdominal pain,” Saunders said. “Within 20 minutes, my legs were completely numb.” The spinal cord stroke left Saunders in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down and unable to walk. Then he began using the EksoNR. It was the first time he took a normal step since the stroke. Within just three weeks, he was able to lift his legs, wiggle his toes, and crawl and has his sights set on walking again soon.

The purchase of the two EksoNR devices and support for ongoing staff training is funded by generous donors to Sheltering Arms Foundation.




  1. Photos and B-roll: CW Saunders uses the EksoNR exoskeleton as part of his inpatient and outpatient care at Sheltering Arms Institute and Sheltering Arms following his spinal cord stroke to learn how to walk again.

Stephanie Sulmer
Public Information Officer
804-342-4329 (o) or 804-201-5808 (c)

About Sheltering Arms Institute

Sheltering Arms and VCU Health System have formed a joint venture, Sheltering Arms Institute, a state-of-the-science physical rehabilitation hospital, that brings together the brand and clinical reputation of Sheltering Arms and the nationally ranked programs and research of VCU Health. The Institute blends advanced technology, research, and evidence-based clinical treatment to create an innovative, transdisciplinary model of rehabilitative care that facilitates superior outcomes for patients. All outpatient services for both parent organizations operate separately now and into the foreseeable future. For more information, please visit

About Sheltering Arms

Sheltering Arms Corporation is part owner, along with VCU Health, of Sheltering Arms Institute. Sheltering Arms also operates seven outpatient clinics across central Virginia offering a vast array of physical rehabilitation, fitness, wellness, and recreation services including its mission-driven day recreation program, Club Rec. To learn more, visit or call (804) 764-1000.