Bionic suit and the city

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Copy of ca p13 Andrew Merryweather in bionic suit-6987 DOE

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Trainer Raaeq Gamieldien helps Andrew Merryweather into his bionic suit. Picture: Robin Clark

Cape Town - The rented bionic walking suit that gave a group of wheelchair-bound Capetonians their first steps will now stay in Cape Town.

Despite the price tag of R1.2-million, one city quadriplegic has found the funds to keep on walking.

Andrew Merryweather first brought the suit to South Africa in October, and has been renting it for the hefty sum of $4 200 (about R42 000) a month.

But with his funds running dry, he was nearing the point at which he would have had to send the suit back to England. His said his employer, Autus Fund Management, had agreed to foot the bill.

Merryweather was paralysed in 2006 after an assault in Claremont. Since then, he has made it his mission to walk again using a bionic suit – and to share that opportunity with other quadriplegics in Cape Town.

However, his announcement that the suit will stay in town has been met with doubt and confusion by another family furiously fund-raising to buy it.

Mark Beack said that, as far as he knew, Merryweather had intended buying a suit, and nothing had materialised – so Beack was going it alone to secure a suit for his son.

His son, Brandon Beack, 18, was paralysed in a gymnastics incident, and desperately needs an Ekso suit to help with rehabilitation.

The Beacks have been appealing to the public for funds.

“In the event that Andrew is not able to buy it, we will be able to,” Beack said. “And if he does succeed, we will either join forces or buy our own.”

Brandon was a gymnast, dancer and musician before tragically injuring his spine on the parallel bars.

In a moment, all of his goals changed. Instead of aiming for the Olympic Games, he had to fight just to survive.

Now he has hours of rehabilitation every day to build muscle strength in his upper body and prepare himself to walk again.

His father’s plan was to raise enough money to set up a rehabilitation gym with equipment including hand cycles and walking frames. “It’s not just about the suit,” he said.

However, Merryweather said he wished to make it known that the suit had been bought and would stay in the city, shared between those who needed to use it. - Cape Argus

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