In 1984, Marine Maj. Terry Labar was walking back to his ship in Haifa, Israel, when a hit-and-run driver launched him 110 feet in the air, leaving the Vietnam veteran unable to walk, paralyzed from the waist down.
On March 16, he took his first steps in 33 years, with some high-tech VA help.
“I remember standing up and I felt 10 feet tall,” Labar told WTVR. “It was really surreal, it really was.”
Thanks to a study at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, Labar was fitted for an exoskeleton that will soon allow him to live his life outside the confines of a wheelchair.
Called “ReWalk,” the exoskeleton is a wearable robotic device that allows powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal cord injuries to stand upright, walk, turn, and use stairs.
One of six veterans fitted for the device, Labar is thrilled not only for the freedom this will grant him, but all the veterans in the future who he hopes will never have to use a wheelchair.
“We want to see if the device can give them the opportunity to be independent and improve their quality of life being home and surrounded by their loved ones and surrounded by their families,” Dr. Ashraf Gorgey, the Director of Spinal Cord Injury Research at McGuire, told WRIC in Richmond, Virginia.
For now, Labar will practice twice a week with the device, learning to walk again.
“It was just unbelievable just to see him upright after all of those years,” his wife Betsy said.