Joost van der Westhuizen’s robotic suit

Joost van der Westhuizen – we’ll never forget him Download Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Our Blue Bull and Bok scrum-half who was part of the team that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, announcing South Africa’s dominant return to international sport.

He looked invincible, but ironically, his quick hands and strong legs have been tackled by something even bigger than Jonah Lomu – Motor Neurone Disease.

What is Motor Neurone Disease?

Motor Neurone Disease is a disorder that attacks the body’s muscles, causing them to waste away. This affects, amongst other things, speech, swallowing and even the ability to breathe.

Joost was officially diagnosed with MND in 2011 and was told he only had between 2-5 years to live and would most likely lose his ability to walk, but through the advances of technology, Joost stunned the world when he strode onto Ellis Park, in a Rewalk Robotic Suit.

How technology has helped Joost survive

The suit is powered by 4 battery-powered motors that steer knee and hip movements. Joost’s robotic leg braces are the first of their kind and act as an exoskeleton, allowing him to walk without any assistance.

There’re also a series of motion sensors that are attached to the leg braces, including motorised joints that respond to changes in the movement of the upper-body.

He also wears a harness around his waist and shoulders to keep the suit in place and uses crutches for extra stability. Finally, he wears a backpack that holds the computer and a rechargeable battery.

Please take a few minutes to watch this awe-inspiring video of Joost walking onto Ellis Park at half-time of the Bok’s clash against New Zealand.

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