teen girl with cerebral palsy smiling in wheelchair

Fulfilling Darby’s Lifelong Goal

Children’s utilizes innovative robotics to get Darby on her feet and across the graduation stage.

Darby Cochran has had one dream as long as her friends and family can remember: to walk across the stage at her high school graduation.

This walk is important to many, but it’s especially meaningful for Darby.

At 19 years old, Darby has limited mobility and relies on a power wheelchair to get around day to day. She was born with cerebral palsy, which affects her body’s movements, coordination and muscle tone.

“Just a few years ago, she wasn’t able to sit up on her own; two years ago, she was barely walking,” said Kelly Moore, a physical therapist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Rehab robotics to the rescue
That was before the Children’s team introduced Darby to the exoskeleton. This high-tech wearable device has motors at the hips and knees to help propel the legs forward and walk in a close-to-perfect pattern.

Children’s was the first pediatric hospital in the U.S. to offer patients enhanced neuro-rehabilitation services through the use of Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton patented technology. The Center for Advanced Technology and Robotic Rehabilitation introduced Ekso in 2015 as part of their ongoing commitment to use the most advanced technology available to help children and teens recover from injuries or disorders that have hindered their motor skills.

The exoskeleton doesn’t do all the work, however. The user must initiate the movement, properly shifting their weight to take each step, explained Moore. Darby accepted the challenge without hesitation. Moore and the rest of Darby’s care providers at Children’s were so impressed with Darby’s years of hard work and positive spirit that they made something happen that’s never been done before: transport the Children’s exoskeleton to a high school graduation. Darby would finally get to walk across that stage.

“I am so excited,” said Darby. “I have been praying for this.”

Staying one step ahead
Like Darby, the team at Children’s doesn’t back down from a challenge. Inspired by our patients’ grit and determination, we never settle. We put in the work until we see results.

In our Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, we are constantly striving to stay one step ahead of the growing demand for specialty pediatric care. We seek out advanced technology like the exoskeleton. We embrace collaboration and innovation with Georgia Tech to conduct biomechanics research and develop prototypes of technology that will give patients more options for effective rehabilitation and recovery. We also hope to utilize wearable technology to collect data from young athletes across the state that will inform regional and national training recommendations to reduce injury.

To achieve these goals and more, however, requires growth and expansion. And it requires support from our community. We need others to join us and invest in our efforts to transform our not-for-profit hospital campus and services to better meet the healthcare needs of children across Georgia and beyond—and help make dreams like Darby’s come true.

Be Part of Our Mission

With your help, we can stay one step ahead of the growing demand for advanced pediatric care.

Boy receiving robotic therapy at pediatric hospital

Gaining New Ground

With donor support to help grow our program, we can remain one of the top pediatric orthopedics programs in the country.