Paralysed Nathan aims to walk 55,000 steps and raise €150,000
An inspirational 26-year-old man who is paralysed from the chest down is aiming to walk 55,000 steps with the help of a space age robotic device.
Nathan Kirwan, from Currabinny, Co Cork, will begin a major fundraising drive using the high-tech "exoskeleton" equipment in Dublin this weekend.
An exoskeleton is a wear-able bionic suit used in rehabilitation.
It enables individuals with any amount of lower limb weakness or paralysis to stand up and move in a walking motion.
"Over the next five months I'm going to do 55,000 steps, which is the equivalent of what somebody would do if they ran in a marathon," said Nathan.
He is appealing for the public to donate €2 for every step he takes during his Walk With Me challenge to cover the €150,000 cost of buying Ireland's first gym-based exoskeleton so it will remain here for use by others who use wheelchairs.
It is presently kept in the Elite Gym in Cork, and if it is not financed in full before October 2015 it will be returned to the manufacturer.
In June 2013, Nathan, who had just finished college, severed his spinal cord in a fall, which left him paralysed from the chest down.
"When I came out of rehab I started training with Colin O'Shaughnessy in Elite Gym," he said.
Together they founded Helpful Steps and have now set about trying to raise enough money to buy the device.
"Once we have raised the funds for Cork, Helpful Steps hopes to roll out the concept for every county in Ireland," Nathan said.
"It's about getting up out of your wheelchair and getting out of that sitting position and just trying to keep your body healthy.
"The way I use it is as an exercise device in the gym in the same way that somebody else might use a treadmill or a rowing machine.
"I use it as a way of getting the benefits of walking and moving my legs.
"I'm paralysed from the chest down, so it really helps my blood flow and bone density, and my muscles have regained a lot of tone.
"It has really helped my breathing as well."
The machine is the only one of its kind available to the public in Ireland, and people have been coming to Cork from all over the country to use it.
The Walk With Me challenge will officially get under way at the Wings For Life run in Dublin on Sunday.
Wings For Life is a charity that raises much-needed funds for research projects dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injury.
Nathan will conduct his challenge for Helpful Steps in Cork until October.
For more information and to make a donation see www.helpfulsteps.ie