7:43pm Thursday 19th April 2012
© Press Association 2014
A paralysed woman is to become the first to take on the London Marathon in a bionic suit.
Claire Lomas, 32, from Eye Kettleby, near Melton, will be attempting to complete the 26-mile route in her ReWalk suit after being left paralysed from the chest down following a horse riding accident in 2007.
The mother of one will start the race with thousands of others this Sunday and hopes to complete 1.5 miles each day. Celebrities including Gabby Logan and former tennis star Tim Henman will be lending their support by walking a mile each with her along part of the route, while her husband Dan, mother Joyce and 13-month-old daughter Maisie will be cheering her on from the sidelines.
The challenge is expected to take Mrs Lomas several weeks to complete, depending on the weather, and she is hoping to raise more than £50,000 for Spinal Research, a charity which funds medical research around the world to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck.
Taking a break from training in her suit at a clinic in Hull, Mrs Lomas said: "Even standing in it is a challenge. The suit so far has been difficult, challenging and frustrating but it's got better. It's took some getting used to but once you've found your balance it's ok.
"When you've not been used to being upright and you haven't got sensation, you feel vulnerable and you know you can fall so it's about getting confidence on your feet but after spending hours in the suit you can get that."
Mrs Lomas broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse Rolled Oats threw her off as she took part in the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire in 2007.
She said: "I suffered a spinal chord injury to my back which left me paralysed from the chest down. I'd just got to the top level and competed at the Burley Horse trials so it was a massive shock to suddenly realise you're not going to walk or event again."
Mrs Lomas had the idea to take part in the London Marathon about a year ago after speaking to others with spinal injuries. She said: "I wanted to raise some money for spinal research because when I was in hospital, and since then, I've seen a lot of people with catastrophic spinal injuries and how it can change your life in a split second. There's a lot of people who are worse off than me and haven't got the support I've got, so I want to raise as much as I can."
The £43,000 RealWalk suit, designed by Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, enables people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system. A shift in the wearer's balance, indicating their desire to take, for example, a step forward, triggers the suit to mimic the response that the joints would have if they were not paralysed.
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