Oklahoma veteran walks for 1st time in years thanks to robotic exoskeleton

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma veteran was able to walk on her own for the first time in years thanks to a robotic exoskeleton.

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

"This is huge," said Holmes. "Enormous."

For Holmes, it was the first time in more than 10 years she was able to walk on her own in public. Holmes, a Marine veteran, was paralyzed from the waist down in a crash -- confined to a wheelchair for a decade.

About a year ago, she was told about a special technology that could possibly help her walk on her own.

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

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," said Whitney Anderson, physical therapist.

Motors in the hips and knees let patients walk with autonomy. Holmes used it around the house for weeks.

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

On Saturday, Sept. 7, 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," said Anderson. "To celebrate and walk with her at the zoo."

For Holmes, the journey was difficult.

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

Holmes said she was hopeful she could inspire other veterans to give the exoskeleton a shot.

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

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