A mum of a child with cerebral palsy has invented a special harness that allows children with motor impairments to walk – and now it has been launched on the global market.
The device, christened the Firefly Upsee, works by strapping the child’s legs on top of their parents legs and using body harnesses to allow them to comfortably stay upright. They are then walked along by their parent, with their arms left free for playing.
As well as giving the child a greater chance to participate in family life, the harness also provides valuable physical therapy, as the repetitive walking motions can help develop the muscles and motions needed to walk.
The life-changing mobility aid is the brainchild of Israeli mum Debby Elnatan. Wanting to improve the quality of life of her wheelchair-bound son, Rotem, who has cerebral palsy, she developed a harness that allowed for combined parent-child movement.
Elnatan was so impressed by the positive change the harness made in their lives that she sought out companies to help bring her invention to other families, and Northern Irish firm Leckey agreed to produce the device for general sale.
At the official launch in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, Elnatan explained how the idea came about. “When my son was two years old, I was told by medical professionals that he didn’t know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them,” she said.
“That was an incredibly difficult thing for a mother to hear. I started to walk him day after day, which was a very strenuous task for both of us. Out of my pain and desperation came the idea for the Upsee and I’m delighted to see it come to fruition.”
Families who have trialled the device say it has transformed their lives. Claire Smythe, whose son Daniel has severe motor impairment and cannot walk or talk, is one of the parents who tested the harness.
“The Upsee means so much to us as a family,” she said in a promotional video for the product. “It’s given us the opportunity to do things that we would never have had the chance to do.
“Just yesterday, Daniel was in the Upsee with his dad and he was able to kick a ball backwards and forwards to his brother. We had such great fun.”