Robbie Drescher was diagnosed with a rare vascular disease called Blue Rubber Bleb Nevus Syndrome that eroded his spine. At 14, the once avid lacrosse player became a paraplegic and was told by doctors he’d never walk again.
Drescher, however, is defying the odds with the help of an exoskeleton from ReWalk Robotics. Each week he travels three hours to the Rehabilitation center at the University of Maryland for physical therapy, and it’s been life-changing. He’s played adaptive sports. He’s graduated high school. He even has his driver’s license.
“It’s been over five years, and he just took 13 steps,” says Drescher’s mom, Sharon. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
The ReWalk exoskeleton consists of a customized metal brace that supports the legs and part of the upper body, motors that supply movement at the hips, knees, and ankles, a tilt sensor, and a backpack that contains the computer and power supply.
Crutches provide the user with additional stability when walking, standing, and rising up from a chair. Using a wireless remote control worn on the wrist, the user commands ReWalk to stand up, sit down or walk.
Drescher is using a ReWalk exoskeleton that belongs to the rehab facility. He’d like one of his own, but there’s a slight problem: it comes with a $70,000 price tag. Private insurance companies are just starting to cover ReWalk’s exoskeleton, but Drescher’s family is raising money and writing grants in the meantime.
“I want to stand up and just watch TV standing up, or just small things that just makes the biggest difference,” Drescher says.
“Rob told me that his new name is ‘Robtimus Prime,’ and I said, ‘OK! We’ll go with that,'” his mother says.
Watch the video below to learn more about Drescher’s story.