I have always dreamt about having the opportunity to walk again. While it would be different than before my spinal cord injury, I’d love to be able to look someone in the eyes while speaking. Indego has made this dream a reality for many, including myself, but this time I wanted more. I wanted to stand face to face with my future wife, stare into her eyes, hear the words “you may kiss the bride,” and walk her back down the aisle.
Why I decided to use Indego in my wedding
I have worked closely with the Indego team over the past few years and developed a great relationship with all the wonderful people who are behind the device. This year, I have seen a few others with Spinal Cord Injuries use exoskeletons to celebrate milestones in their lives, including graduating from college and getting married, and I wanted to do the same. Of course, my beautiful (now) wife, Lindsay, was more than willing to help me incorporate Indego into our big day. To be honest, I was the one who was most skeptical about using an exoskeleton at my wedding. I had many worries and unanswered questions. Would the exoskeleton take away from the shining moment that Lindsay had envisioned for her entire life? Would our family and friends focus too much on me walking for the first time in seven years? Would I like the way that I looked standing at the altar? After all, the wheelchair has become an essential part of both my life and our relationship.
I brought my concerns to the Indego team, who was very understanding. My biggest priority was practicing enough to feel confident while walking through grass and on uneven terrain. I have used the device a lot, but never in the grass or across stone walkways outdoors. Lindsay and I had picked out a beautiful outdoor venue in a nearby national park months before and were committed to having an outdoor ceremony. After working with the team to train my best man as my “Indego support person,” everyone at Indego rallied together to provide a device for me to take home and practice with the week before the wedding.
Days before the wedding
Lindsay and I both wanted to use the Indego for our first dance, as the reception was indoors, and I was confident that it would be possible. We were still unsure if we would be able to use Indego during our ceremony, however, as Ohio weather in October is anything but predictable. Naturally, the entire week leading up to our wedding day, October 6, 2018, had been nothing but rain. Due to the weather, I did not have the opportunity to practice much outside, so with the first ray of sunshine I got in the Indego and walked all the way around our two-acre yard. This was the first time in seven years that I was able to walk at my own home. I picked apples and pears from the trees in our backyard, chased the dogs around a bit, and cracked a few jokes while walking. Needless to say, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
The next day was our rehearsal dinner and Ohio weather delivered again, raining all day. The weather cleared up just before rehearsing the ceremony, so I took advantage and used the Indego to practice. I knew that Lindsay and I had a backup plan and that slippery grass and mud could create a less than ideal situation. I was thrilled that I had no issues walking in these conditions and was confident that I could make this happen. It was finally starting to set in that I was going to be marrying my best friend and love of my life the following day.
Everything happened so quickly on the day of our wedding; time never moved so fast. Everything went perfectly – all my closest family members and friends were with me, we were having a great time getting ready, everyone looked so sharp, AND, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! Very rare for Ohio in October, it was 80 degrees and sunny.
This was it – the time had finally come. I walked my mother and father down the aisle, gave them a big hug and kiss before seeing them to their seats, and stood beside all my handsome groomsmen. While looking out over all my dearest family and friends, I watched the beautiful bridesmaids lead the way for my soon-to-be wife, escorted by my in-laws, to meet me at the altar. This was the greatest single moment of my life, a rollercoaster of emotions that I had never felt before.
It was truly a once in a lifetime feeling to be able to stand and overlook our guests while Lindsay and her father walked down the aisle. It took everything I had in me not to completely lose it. This was the first time I had seen her in over 24 hours. I was speechless at how beautiful she looked as we stood hand-in-hand reciting our vows. I will never forget hearing the officiant say the words, "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride." We then, for the first time as husband and wife, walked side-by-side being cheered by all our loved ones as we excited the ceremony.
After the ceremony, Lindsay and I had a photo session with the photographer before everyone moved into the barn for the reception. Once we all finished eating dinner, we moved straight into our first dance. For obvious reasons, I never thought that Lindsay and I would be able to share this intimate moment, looking each other in the eyes while I held her in my arms. This was a special surprise for our guests as well and there was not a dry eye in the room. We then moved on to the father-daughter dance, followed by the mother-son dance. I wanted to surprise my mother with this dance, and it definitely worked. This was the first time that I ever danced with my mom – something that she probably thought would never be possible after my injury.
For so many reasons, I am grateful to have such a great group of people who love and support Lindsay and me. The fact that I was able to stand and walk on the day of our wedding is something that I will never forget and a priceless memory that I will cherish forever. Now, off to Jamaica to honeymoon with my beautiful wife!
To learn more about Indego, please visit our website.
This article was contributed by Indego user, Ryan Reddick.