Oklahoma veteran walks for the first time in years thanks to robotic exoskeleton

Posted at 3:27 PM, Sep 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-08 17:27:51-04

OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma veteran is able to walk on her own for the first time in years thanks to the latest medical advancements.

A morning visit to the zoo may not seem like a big deal, but for Jennifer Holmes, it's something amazing.

"This is huge, enormous," Holmes said.

For Holmes, this is the first time in over 10 years she has been able to walk on her own in public.

Holmes is a Marine veteran; she was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident.

For the last decade, she had been confined to a wheelchair. About a year ago she was told about a special technology that could possibly let her walk on her own.

"I immediately wanted to try it. Anything thing to get out of that chair is something anyone would want to do," Holmes said.

Working with a therapist at the Oklahoma VA Hospital, Holmes was fitted with special leg braces.

"It’s a robotic exoskeleton, and what it does is it uses this external frame that attaches around her torso area and it helps to be able to stand and walk," physical therapist Whitney Anderson said.

Motors in the hips and knees let patients walk with autonomy. For the last four weeks, Holmes had been using it around the house.

"In the beginning, it was a struggle, but it has gotten easier though. I enjoy it, standing up folding laundry, doing the dishes, the small things mean the most to me," Holmes said.

But Saturday, Holmes took a walk in public at the Oklahoma City Zoo with a special someone.

"It’s the first day I've got to walk in the zoo with my daughter," Holmes said.

"It was a goal of hers to come to the zoo for her daughter's birthday. To celebrate and walk with her at the zoo," Anderson said.

For Holmes, the journey has been difficult.

"I feel pain all the time, but I still go even though I'm hurting," she said.

Holmes said she hopes she can inspire other veterans to give the exoskeleton a shot.

"Veterans need to know that they just need to ask. It's there, it's available, just ask," she said.