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'I can be a stand-up guy again': Valley veteran regains ability to walk with new technology

Richard Neider lost the use of his legs 10 years ago during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now he'll be able to walk alongside his wife thanks to new technology.

PHOENIX — Richard Neider walks around the Touchstone Rehabilitation with a big smile on his face. He has spent the past two months learning how to walk again with the use of the ReWalk Exoskeleton.

“During Operation Iraqi Freedom I sustained a spinal cord injury that took my walking away,” Neider said.

Life in a wheelchair was a big adjustment for Neider. Over the past 10 years, the Army veteran has learned to adapt – thinking he’d never walk again… until now.

“After 10 years of not walking. It’s one of the most amazing feelings,” Neider said.

The ReWalk Exoskeleton is battery-operated technology and is strapped to Neider's lower back. His legs are attached to braces at the ankles and knees. He wears a watch to initiate his actions and a device sits on his hip monitoring his movements.

“Each time they shift side to side the exoskeleton knows to advance the other limb,” said Dan Bonarati, Neider’s physical therapist.

The device was developed in Israel and is now approved by the FDA for use in the United States. It’s less cumbersome and, unlike other versions, clients can take this device home.

“The machine is doing all the work of moving me around. I just basically make it go where it’s supposed to go,” said Neider.

Dan Bonarati says the new technology is a game changer.

“The people that we’ve trained so far with the exoskeleton can walk an hour or more at a time. I believe some have even done walking races with them,” said Bonarati.

Neider is looking forward to taking walks around the neighborhood with his wife.

“It’s more than freedom. It’s complete independence to be on my feet. Be eye-to-eye with everybody. I can be a stand-up guy again. Not just a role model,” said Neider.

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