Paralyzed Long Island vet stands, gets Obama bear hug

Obama ReWalk

Theresa Hannigan, a former U.S. Army sergeant, got to meet the President and also got to show off the ReWalk, a $60,000 bionic suit invented by Israeli scientists that allows her to walk again

JERUSALEM — She was the surprise star attraction in an exhibit of the latest in Israeli technology.

Theresa Hannigan, a paralyzed retired U.S. Army sergeant from Long Island, found herself bear-hugged by President Obama Thursday as she showed how she regained the power to walk.

Hannigan suffers from a neurological auto-immune disease, but with ReWalk, a $60,000 bionic suit invented by Israeli scientists, she can even climb stairs.

The exoskeleton suit uses computers and motion sensors to allow paraplegics to walk with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement. It made headlines last year when British athlete Clare Lomas became the first paraplegic to walk the London Marathon.

Hannigan, 60, of Patchogue, told Obama she was introduced to it by Dr. Anne Spungen at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in the Bronx. When she put on the suit it was “beyond words,” she said.

“I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe that what they were telling me was true — that I was going to be able to press a button and simply stand,” she told the Daily News.

“Please tell me how you’re standing, tell me how this works,” asked the President.

After listening to her explain her tale, he made her day.

“He said ‘Oh,’ and that’s when he came over and hugged me,” said the delighted vet. “I thought: ‘Oh my God, the President of the United States gets it and he’s hugging me.’ He just came right at me and gave me a bear hug like your father would give you.”

New York Daily News, March 21, 2013

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