Firefly Upsee – a big step forward for children with cerebral palsy

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14 April 2014

Neil Hudgell Solicitors are proud sponsors and supporters of many charitable and community groups throughout the UK, and we believe the Firefly products are a fantastic step forward for families of those with cerebral palsy.

An Israeli mother’s bright idea has proved life-changing for children suffering from cerebral palsy and their families. Music therapist Debby Alnatan invented the Firefly Upsee – a walking support harness to help her son Rotem, who was born with cerebral palsy. Because of his severe motor disabilities, Rotem would otherwise have been confined to a wheelchair.

Being able to stand on his own two feet made a dramatic difference to Rotem and his ability to participate in family life. Eager to share her invention with as many other parents as possible, Alnatan searched worldwide for a suitable manufacturer, and eventually partnered with Northern Ireland based company Leckey, which produces the Firefly line of equipment, specifically designed to help improve the posture and mobility of children with special needs.

Ready for worldwide launch

With Alnatan’s close cooperation, Leckey’s accomplished team of engineers, physical therapists, textile experts and designers set to work, and after a research and development process that took nearly two years, including successful trials of the product with families in the UK, the US, Canada and Israel, the Firefly Upsee harness is finally ready to be launched worldwide.

James Leckey, the CEO of Firefly, predicts an immediate rush to acquire this now innovation, and is already warning parents that they may have to wait several weeks before Firefly can fulfil all the orders.

The Firefly Upsee works by strapping the child to their parent’s legs and hips, so that their body is fully supported, and can stand upright and take steps without any risk of falling over or injuring themselves. The device consists of an adjustable adult hip belt; a harness that fits around the child’s torso with fastenings at the shoulders, hips and chest; and special sandals that join the child’s feet to those of their parents, so that the two can take steps in tandem. The design leaves all four hands free for play, balance or other tasks.

The Upsee is available in four colours, and uses stylish, durable and breathable fabrics, making it comfortable, reliable, and easy to clean.

Freedom for families

Although she was delighted to have found a solution to her son’s mobility problems, Alnatan can hardly have foreseen the profound difference her invention would make to families worldwide.

According to Firefly’s clinical research manager and occupational therapist, Claire Canale, the Upsee has “reinforced the potential of families to do things together”. Rather than being confined to wheelchairs and beds, children with cerebral palsy and other conditions that affect their posture and mobility are now able to stand hand in hand with their siblings, to dance around the garden, to take the family dog for a walk, and to play football with their best friend for the very first time.

The Upsee enables children to explore and engage with the world around them like never before, making new discoveries, enjoying new sensations, and, in short, experiencing all the childhood thrills their parents may have feared were forever beyond their reach.

Colorado resident Stacy Warden, whose six-year-old son Noah was one of the earliest users of the Upsee, speaks emotionally about how Alnatan’s invention has changed the lives of their entire family. “It allows us to do so many things and go so many places that we couldn’t before”, she said, describing Noah’s delight at being able to visit a petting zoo, and touch sheep and rabbits for the first time.

Dynamic standing and walking training

The Upsee’s possibilities may stretch yet further, because in addition to the social and psychological benefits of increased family participation, clinical researchers have already remarked upon the Upsee’s potential to provide dynamic standing and walking training to children with musculo-skeletal disorders. This training is helping to increase strength, improve coordination, and boost mobility.

Firefly’s Claire Canale claims the Upsee has the potential to help with “muscle strengthening, joint and cognitive development, as well as increasing bone mineral density in the longer term”.

The parents of Nachman, an Upsee user in Israel, have reported improvements in his ability to achieve and maintain an upright position, and to initiate movement, along with better lower limb and trunk extension, and said that, through the close physical contact and cooperation the Upsee enables, they can feel him initiating more and more movements himself. Formal research into the benefits of the Upsee is now underway, with therapists and clinicians – not to mention parents – eagerly awaiting the results.

But the immediate benefits of Debby Alnatan’s marvellous invention are plain to see. Videos on the Firefly website show happy, active children, beaming and chuckling with delight at being able to walk down the street, play games with their families and discover the world around them. The Firefly Upsee is truly a great step forward for disabled children and those who love and care for them.

Cerebral palsy may sometimes be caused by premature birth, complications during birth or abnormal brain development. If you believe that the condition could have been avoided, and was brought about as a result of medical negligence by hospital staff, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak to one of our clinical negligence specialists at Neil Hudgell Solicitors today to see if you have a claim.

By: Chris Moore – Senior Solicitor, Clinical Negligence

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