Opinion: Neha’s Parkinson’s Stick Innovation An achievement To Be Recognized, Honored

IFTIKHAR RAHAT — Neha Shahid Chaudhry, a Pakistani student from Bristol, UK, of the University of West of England (UWE Bristol) invented an innovative walking stick which she designed to prevent freezing of gait– a common symptom for people with Parkinson’s disease – and enable its user to walk normally.

The Pakistani High Commission should take an initiative and influence their counterpart, in facilitating to resolve Neha’s visa issue. Also, on behalf of the government of Pakistan, our High Commission in London, should welcome NEHA, and honor her in a prestigious manner, in recognition of her invention.

As per media report, Neha, has secured nearly £100,000 of investment to develop the innovative walking stick for people with Parkinson’s which helps prevent a common symptom known as ‘freezing’ of gait — the feeling of feet being glued to the ground and inability to walk.

The smart device detects a pause in motion, it sends rhythmic vibrations to the handle, helping the user regain their natural walking motion. She was inspired to invent a mobility aid after witnessing her late grandfather struggle with freezing of gait and subsequent falls, triggered by his Parkinson syndrome.

Experts believe the mobility aid could revolutionize treatment for the condition, which affects nearly 10 million people worldwide.

While interacting with media, Nehas said, “People with Parkinson’s get jammed in one place and can’t step forward – it can cause falls. They need any kind of rhythm or sequence to get them started again, because it acts as a reminder. The beat is inside the handle – it senses when you stop and turns off automatically when you start walking again. Patients say it encourages them to walk and they learn to keep pace with it.”

The device is purposely designed to look like a conventional walking stick, she said, and its vibrations can only be felt and not heard, to ensure that it doesn’t draw attention to the user and cause them to be embarrassed about their condition.

During an interview with media she said, “I spent three to four months doing research, talking to patients, going to care homes and attending Parkinson’s UK drop-in sessions. More than the disease itself, a big problem is its impact on social lives. Some other products for people with Parkinson’s have a stigma attached to them – they look like products for disabled people,” Neha, continued to mention that the technology has already been successfully tested among dozens of Parkinson’s patients, and the NHS and charity Parkinson’s UK have expressed an interest in the walking stick.

Based at the technology incubator of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Neha supported the development of the product through her own startup company Walk to Beat. There she worked on the sensors for the walking stick and produced a final prototype device at the Robotics Innovation Facility.

Sources confirmed that Neha has won awards for her device which could change the lives of people with Parkinson’s. She was shortlisted for two prestigious awards, ‘FutureSPARK’ award, and her company ‘Walk to Beat’ was picked for the ‘Good’ award, but unfortunate Neha ran into a handicap– she unintentionally provided an incomplete information to the British Emigration Officials. As a result the British Home Department was reluctant to give her an extension in Visa. Due to her success, inventing a smart walking stick for Parkinson’s sufferers which has the potential to transform lives, it was surprising to notice that a huge supporters now stand by her side and trying to influence the British Home Department to reconsider her case and allow Neha, to stay back in UK.

All the best Neha.

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