Carilion gives man hope of walking again with exoskeleton after paralyzing crash

22-year-old Anthony Robinson takes his first steps in 10 months using ReWalk

By Alison Wickline - Reporter, Madison Smith - Intern

ROANOKE, Va. - A new technology at Carilion is giving patients with spinal cord injuries a chance to take their first steps.

Anthony Robinson is putting one foot in front of the other for the first time in 10 months with ReWalk.

Last August, Robinson, 22, was a student at Emory and Henry College when a car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Now, he's at Carilion to take his first steps again. The robotic exoskeleton is giving Anthony the hope that he thought he had lost.

"I want that experience of walking again and that's what that experience today felt like is just getting up and standing again and taking baby steps," said Robinson.

ReWalk is designed for patients with spinal cord injuries. It shows the body how to move. While this device helps patients walk again, it doesn't do all of the work. It takes an amazing amount of effort and focus from the patient to successfully operate the device.

Robinson said that is was definitely a challenge for him, but after the accident, no challenge is too tough for him to accomplish.

"I can't wait to get back in it," Robinson said after finishing his first trial with ReWalk.

He was surrounded by a room full of family and friends to help cheer him on.

"I was just hopeful that he would be able to do it and press forward in it. I was just amazed, couldn't put the camera down, couldn't quit taking pictures and smiling and just seeing the smile on his face," said Anthony's mother, Jessica Graham.

Robinson's family and the Carilion staff members had smiles on their faces too as Robinson took his first steps.

"It's really nice to see the looks on their faces. They're amazed. That feeling of being able to move again in an upright position at that level, it's a very emotional, rewarding experience," said Carilion physical therapist Jennifer O'Connor.

With each step, Anthony is getting closer to his goal of walking across the stage at graduation next spring. Because, after all, the sky is the limit when you refuse to be stopped.

"I've always had the mindset of always moving forward and never looking back," said Robinson.

After patients go through training with ReWalk, they have to work with their insurance companies to get and keep the exoskeleton. The equipment can cost about $100,000.

To learn more about ReWalk, click here.

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