CLINTON -- As Lewis Compton took his first steps on the Reo Ambulator at Clinton NHC HealthCare, he was the first person in the country to do so.

The Reo Ambulator is a machine built by Israel-based company Motorika that simulates walking for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to, and it incorporates an augmented reality component where the walker can play games while using it. 

The machine fell into the hands of staff at Clinton NHC because of an existing relationship Arik Avni, vice president of clinical affairs with Motorika, had with Cheryl Bosler, director of rehabilitation at Clinton NHC.

"We had trialed a device for him seven or eight years ago, so he contacted us to trial this Reo Ambulator," Bosler said. "It's robotic, it's new, it's innovative -- we couldn't say no. We were excited." 

Avni said Clinton NHC was the first facility in the United States to receive the machine in May, and it will continue to test the machine for Motorika through the end of the year. 

"It can just teach you how to walk -- it teaches you the normal gait pattern with a lot of repetition," Avni said. "It allows you to teach the brain, to accelerate the recovery process, to allow more intensive therapy, to allow a better learning process, to motivate the patient with virtual reality games." 

Generally, a patient that must relearn how to walk or exercise stationary muscles would need several nurses to help move the leg muscles, but the Reo Ambulator moves the patients muscles without the help of nurses, as well as tracks the patient's movement data.

"Here, you are measuring the process all the time," Avni said. "It's very important now when you are really working with an insurance company to show them, to validate that you improved objectively."

Avni said the device can be used to help a variety of patients -- from those that are relearning how to walk to patients who will might never be able to walk again.

"By using this repetition with active participation, you can really change the brain pathways and structure," Avni said. 

For the first time in 14 years, Compton, an assistant principal at Laurens High School, was able to stand and simulate walking since a deer hunting accident that injured his spine and left him paralyzed. 

"It was a really good feeling to be able to see your legs actually working and moving again," Compton said. 

Compton has devices at home that help stimulate his leg muscles, but nothing that feels as close to walking as the Reo Ambulator.

"It's a real good feeling psychologically, and to be upright -- that's a good feeling. Seeing your legs walking and moving is just a good feeling," Compton said. "This is the movement part of it that's so incredibly, I guess, therapeutic. It might not be so much rehabilitative to me, but therapeutic. It just makes you feel good, to be honest with you."

Compton said if he had access to the machine 14 years ago, while he might not have regained the ability to walk, it certainly would have improved his morale and physical fitness.

"Just being upright and having weight on your legs, it helps not only with the therapeutic, but also with your bones," Compton said. "Because you lose bone density by not putting any weight (down), so any weight bearing on your bones -- it's good for my legs to keep the bone density from going away." 

While Compton walked on the device Wednesday afternoon, patients gathered to watch it in motion.

"The patients here at the center, the community... they've been very excited," Bosler said.  

Contact Ariel Gilreath at 864-943-5644 or follow on Twitter@IJARIELGILREATH.