The National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Louisville, KY this year in July were the 39th annual games and pulled in over 800 athletes. Started in 1981, the wheelchair games has drawn individuals from all 50 states, the Dominican Republic and Great Britain. Over the past years, the wheelchair games have expanded from its original 7 events to over 20 events bringing veterans together to compete on one stage.
This year, veteran Jim Kempner joined as an athlete in his 4th wheelchair games and participated in 9 different events including slalom, trap shooting, bowling and archery. His outstanding dedication to the events and ability to battle to the top lead him to receive three gold medals and four silver medals. When receiving his medals, Jim used his Indego to walk across the stage. When explaining his feelings Jim expressed “to show them [veterans] that now we have the opportunity to not only stand, but walk again, is a feeling that is hard to explain.”
Injured in March of 2014 when he fell off a second story building, Jim was determined to continue to pursue his passions and hobbies. By participating in the veteran wheelchair games, he has been able to compete on a high level and dedicate himself to the challenge each sport provides. His interest in participating in sports at a high level and continuing to be active lead him to seek out other interest including exploring technology now available for veterans, exoskeletons. Jim started his training with the Indego exoskeleton in April of 2018 through VA Palo Alto and is now on his home trial. Walking across the stage to accept his medals at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is only the beginning for Jim.
When he is not competing in his sports, Jim uses Indego on a daily basis walking with his family and friends. He truly takes it to the limits demonstrating how Indego is not only helping veterans walk at home, but around the community. Jim enjoys walking around Walmart and at Home Depot, something that was not an option for him following his injury in 2014. Not only has he been able to see personal changes when using Indego, but his family has also been a big part of his journey as well. So much so that a letter written by his granddaughter outlining three wishes, included a wish for her grandpa Jim, “My last wish would be for my grandpa to walk again.”
"To be able to stand and walk again really can’t be put into words. To be able to show others that there are options other than to just be in a chair the rest of their life is great."
Jim Kempner, United States Veteran, Wheelchair Olympics Athlete and Indego user
Indego has helped Jim continue to reach for his goals and passions. Not only in his love for sports but also making his granddaughters wish come true.
This article was contributed by Dr. Jen Tschoepe, PT, DPT, NCS, Janz Corporation. Jen is an Indego Instructor with the Janz Corporation, A Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado in 2010, and her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Regis University in 2014. After completion of her Doctorate, Jen went on to Boston University to complete a Post-Doctoral Neurological Residency Program and became a certified neurologic clinical specialist (NCS) in 2016. Since then, Jen has been focused on working with patients with neurological conditions. Now as an Indego Instructor, Jen works with clinicians and patients around the US educating on the use and benefits of the Indego exoskeleton.