Bay man's robotic legs a world first

By Michele Hunter

1 comment

 A Bay man is believed to have made world history after becoming the first person in the world to own a pair of robotic legs.

Dave MacCalman of Athenree, a quadriplegic world-record-holding athlete lost the use of his legs 32 years ago after breaking his neck in a diving accident. He has invested in a $150,000 "exoskeleton", designed by Auckland-based company Rex Bionics.

He took his "Rex" home this month, having spent 60 hours at an Auckland rehabilitation centre learning how to use them.

The groundbreaking device has 29 on-board computer processors that control movement and balance through the use of a joystick, allowing the user to sit, stand, walk and turn.

Self-supporting and hands free, the user is strapped in tightly with Velcro straps and no additional aids, such as crutches, are needed.

Being upright also has health benefits for wheelchair users as lack of mobility can lead to health issues such as urinary tract, bowel, cardiovascular, metabolic and skin-related problems.

"Being a New Zealand company and a world first really attracted me. I was interested and I went to see them and they were really interested because of my sporting background to get me involved," Mr MacCalman said.

"The first time I tried it I really loved it."

Mr MacCalman who, prior to his accident played for a top Wellington basketball club and the Brisbane Bullets, sustained his spinal injury when he was in California on a basketball scholarship and dived into a river without realising the water level had dropped.

He reinvented himself, coaching National League Basketball for 25 years, as well as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby at an international level. He also competed in and won many wheelchair events, from international wheelchair marathons to Paralympic and world pentathlons, winning two gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

The MNZM recipient still holds the world record for the quadriplegic pentathlon.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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