A mother who could not bear to see her son with cerebral palsy sitting in a wheelchair most of his waking day created a device to help him on his feet, and has seen her invention launched worldwide.
The Firefly Upsee by Northern Ireland-based company Leckey – a standing and walking harness for children with motor impairment – was the invention of Israeli mother Debby Elnatan, who wanted a harness support that could improve her son’s mobility skills.
The Upsee is expected to attract global demand as the first product of its kind. It has already been tested with families across the UK, USA and Canada with positive results. Elnatan said, “It is wonderful to see this product available to families across the world.
“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. 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.”
The Firefly Upsee will enable infants and small children to stand and achieve repetitive walking training with the support of an adult. The system includes a harness for the child, which attaches to the system’s adult belt, and specially-engineered sandals, which allows the parent and child to step simultaneously and leaves their hands free for play and other tasks.
The Firefly team worked closely with Debby to design and manufacture the product for the international market. The company has 30 years’ experience in clinical excellence. A team of designers, engineers, textile experts and therapists have worked on the project since 2012.
Firefly’s Clinical Research Manager and occupational therapist, Clare Canale, said the product could help families across the globe: “Short-term, the Upsee improves special needs family participation and quality of life, while research suggests it has the potential to help the with physical and emotional development in the longer term.”
She added, “It has been humbling to see the progress and happiness the Upsee is creating; watching children to do simple things for the first time such as kicking a ball or playing with a sibling is wonderful for everyone involved, but especially the families.”
Stacy Warden from Colorado is mother to five-year-old Noah, who has cerebral palsy and has been trying the Upsee. She said, “We are thrilled with the Upsee because in the short time we’ve been using it, it has made a huge difference to our family. It allows us to do so many things and go so many places that we couldn’t before.”
Maura McCrystal from Draperstown in Northern Ireland said, “Last Sunday was a significant one for us as a family as it was the first time our son Jack was able to play football in the back garden with his dad, his brothers and our little dog Milly. To see Jack playing like any other 5 year old boy made me very emotional. Jack and his brothers so enjoyed it.”
A series of webinars featuring experts in special needs care and focusing on special needs family participation will take place to coincide with the launch of the Firefly Upsee on April 1, 2, and 3, 2014. To register, visit www.fireflyfriends.com/webinar.