Man With ‘Bionic’ Leg Climbs 103 Stairwell Floors at Former Sears Tower

Bionic, leg, stairs, Chicago

A Seattle man, who has the world’s first neural controlled bionic leg, climbed the stairs to all 103 floors of Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower Sunday.

Zac Vawter scaled the stairs for charity, putting the leg on display. According to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the leg works on impulses from Vawter’s mind. When he thinks about going somewhere, it sends a signal to his leg that makes it move. The technology has been implemented in arms and fingers but never in a leg.

Vawter has been part of the rehab center’s trial for the leg for about a year, and this weekend’s annual SkyRise Chicago fundraiser was the technology’s first public test.

bionic, leg, stairs, Chicago

It took Vawter, 31, just 53 minutes and 9 seconds to climb all those stairs. He’d long been a runner, competing for St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., when three years ago, his leg was amputated following a motorcycle accident.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago as the nation’s top rehab hospital, and Vawter was willing to offer himself up to test the one-of-a-kind prosthetic limb. He calls the new leg a huge improvement over his normal prosthetic.

It’s something exciting and fun, and I hope that we push the boundaries of what the research and the leg is capable of.

Vawter was one of about 3,000 people making the climb, which raised roughly $1 million for the rehab center.

Other climbers included U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who has worked tirelessly with the Rehabilitation Institute since suffering a stroke last January. In his first public appearance since then, he climbed 37 flights in about an hour.

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