“And the LORD said unto him: ‘Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt speak.’” (Exodus 4:11-12)
The Firefly Upsee, a harness designed to assist children with neurological disorders practice walking, was invented by Debbie Elnatan of Jerusalem. This month, Elnatan’s life-changing invention hit the global marketplace.
Elnatan’s son Rotem, now 19, has cerebral palsy. “When my son was two-years-old, I was told by medical professional that he didn’t know what his legs were and had no consciousness of them,” Elnatan said in a press release.
“That was an incredibly difficult thing for a mother to hear. I started to walk him day after day, which was a very strenuous task for both of us. I said there had to be a better way. Out of my pain and desperation came the idea for the Upsee, and I’m delighted to see it come to fruition.”
Elnatan experimented with different designs before coming up with the prototype for the Upsee. The final product consists of a harness for the child, which attaches to a belt worn by the adult, and a pair of specially designed sandals for both which are attached to each other, as well. The child is supported by the harness, and the adult’s leg movements allow the child’s legs to move, as well. The adult is able to remain upright and both adult and child have hands free to play and explore.
Once the harness was developed, Elnatan focused on raising Rotem and his older sibling, running her music therapy groups and inventing other innovations to help families. She and another mother even started a non-profit organization called Full Family Rehabilitation. It wasn’t until relatives in Israel offered to invest in harness that she began seeking manufacturers.
Elnatan opted to partner with Leckey, an Irish company which manufactures equipment for children with special needs, “because it is a company with its heart in the right place,” she told Israel 21C. First, though, the company had to launch an ecommerce platform to make their products easier for families to obtain through direct sales. Thus Firefly was born.
The Upsee was launched to the public last Monday, and “the enormous demand for Upsees was unexpected,” Elnatan told NBC in an interview the next day. Orders came in from 54 countries, including Iran, Germany and South Africa. Traffic was so high that the site crashed at one point.
The Upsee is only available from the Firefly website. It is listed at $450 USD, plus shipping. According to the site, it can take up to 12 weeks to arrive, depending on stock.
There’s something almost magical about it,” said Elnatan. “Your family is important, and this could be something to mainstream your child’s life.”