An Israeli mom of a child with cerebral palsy has invented a walking harness that changes the way special-needs kids navigate the world.
Debby Elnatan designed a support harness to allow her wheelchair-bound young son Rotem to stand upright. By cinching the top of the harness to her own waist and slipping specially designed sandals on their feet, the device permits mom and child to walk together while keeping their hands free for other activities.
"When my son was 2 years old, I was told by medical professionals that he didn't know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them," Elnatan recently told the Daily Mail.
Elnatan said that was especially difficult thing for a mother to hear, so out of "pain and desperation" she came up with the idea for the Firefly Upsee Harness.
Elnatan chose Irish company Leckey to mass produce the Upsee and make it available to other parents of physically disabled children. For the past three months 20 families from all over the world have been trying out the device.
Stacy Warden and her 5-year-old son Noah are one of the lucky families who have been test driving the harness. Noah lives with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a condition that has left him unable to crawl, sit, stand, walk or feed himself. Warden told ABC News that using the Upsee has been a life-changing experience.
"He laughs and giggles, something he doesn't do with other walking devices, which he sees as work," Warden said. "I am amazed at what this has done for both of us."
Warden said the harness enables Noah to do a whole range of movements that he was incapable of doing in the past. He can now bear weight on both legs and he has starting mimicking natural walking motions instead of crisscrossing his legs in attempts to move forward. Her hope is that training with the harness will one day teach her son to walk on his own.
One of the most touching moments came when Noah's 3-year-old brother Luke was able to hug his brother for the first time, Warden said. Because Noah was standing in the harness, he was able to hug his little brother back.
"For the first time we can do so many things as a family," she said.
Upsee goes on sale worldwide starting April 7, and will cost around $540 plus shipping. It will fit kids 3 to 8 years old.
Conor Mckernan, marketing manager for Upsee, said that interest in the product is already overwhelming. To answer the questions that have come flooding into their website, Mckernan said that the company is holding a webinar and online demonstrations April 1 through April 3.
"It's an amazing product. I believe it's really going to be beneficial to children with special needs," Warden said.