Steve Holbert, USMC veteran, was paralyzed after a motorcycle accident 10 years ago. Despite that and the new wheelchair, he took the challenge to establish a new normalcy in life. Thus, the Indego Exoskeleton came into play in March of 2019; and not only can Steve now stand up from his wheelchair, but he can also walk.
Steve and another paralyzed veteran were the first two to receive Indego Exoskeletons from the Houston VA Medical Center. With them being the first at the VA, it took about a year for them to get screened, trained, and complete a home trial period, before being issued their own devices. Since then, they have been working with the Houston VA to help others get an Indego as well. Thanks to them, the process is now quicker and smoother.
Many health benefits started to get noticed with the use of Indego, other than being able to stand and walk. This included Steve’s bones, intestines, bladder, bowel program, and his entire cardiovascular system. “The increased trunk control and strength I have gained, along with added good old physical exercise, has made me feel better too.”
Steve also notes the psychological benefits. “You just feel better about yourself, and I truly feel like I can just stand up and go for a walk now.”
Steve describes how he can also no longer speak to people at “butt-level,” constantly craning his neck to look up at others, or have them lean down to him. “It’s a huge mental boost to be able to stand at the height you were before you were paralyzed. Too many people take that for granted.”
The Indego exoskeleton goes around the waist, lower back, and legs. The pieces are all connected as one unit that the user can also have synced on a phone. “When you turn it on and stand up, it’s sort of like a pendulum to activate it. You lean forward to go, and lean back to stop.” The Indego does require an assistant, however with practice, Steve is at the point where he can go on hour-long walks by making laps in his driveway.
Steve uses the Indego Exoskeleton to walk up to five times a week around his home, and that has helped him hit his goal of walking 200,000 steps by Christmas of 2019.
Since then, Steve has been active in his local PVA chapter to help fellow veterans and has also been part of the Indego Veteran Peer Support Group. Then one day, Indego contacted him to offer an opportunity for him to participate in seeing the President of the United States at an event with SoldierStrong. With four other paralyzed veterans that are also Indego users, they would stand for the national anthem as the singer went on stage and prepared to sing. They would stand at the front of the stand to be seen by all and on TV.
“But he walked up and started singing immediately, before we even had a chance to stand.” Steve had rushed to stand up, but nothing happened, as the exoskeleton was not fully activated. He and his wife took a few moments to reset it, and then Steve was up and moving. “I pulled off my hat, put my hand over my heart, and looked to see the President staring at me. I was thinking “holy crap, I had one simple job to do, and I flubbed it up!”
When the national anthem ended, Steve and the other military veterans used their exoskeletons to walk to the barrier in front of the stage. He brought some challenge coins from his Texas PVA Chapter, and held one up to the President, but a Secret Service agent shook his head at him. “Then the Vice President walked up, took the coin and shook my hand. I was so flabbergasted by that, that I have no idea what he even said to me.”
Upon returning home in Texas, Steve wrote thank you notes to SoldierStrong and Indego. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt the desire to stand up and walk more fiercely than right then, in front of the President of the United States of America during the national anthem, and with four other Indego users. I guess I feel like it was my duty to stand up, to hopefully show other paralyzed veterans that you can stand up and be proud of yourself and your country.
I am also thankful I got to attend the event and was able to share my experience of using my robot legs with other users, and hope other paralyzed veterans got to see us and were inspired to inquire about the Indego exoskeleton device.”