Lyle Fleming can walk for the first time in six years with the help of a pair of bionic legs.
The former power company lineman from Logan County, West Virginia, was in a horrific accident while on the job, paralyzing him from the waist down, and he has since been confined to a wheelchair.
But with the help of an ‘exoskeleton’ Fleming recently took his first steps, an heart-warming moment captured in an ABC News video.
After spending two months learning to operate and move his newly machine-assisted legs, Fleming was able to take the exoskeleton home.
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After spending six years paralyzed from the waist down, Lyle Fleming the Indego exoskeleton let Lyle Fleming walk again with a little assurance from his father
‘It’s just so emotional, man, the feeling to be able to stand up after six years,’ said a tearful Fleming.
Fleming’s is one of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As of 2016, the fatality rate for linemen was 19.2 per every 100,000 workers.
In 2013, he fell 30 feet from an electrical pole.
Fleming was lucky to survive the plunge, but his spinal cord was irreversibly damaged.
He did his best to adjust to using a wheelchair – but it hasn’t been easy.
‘When you’re in a chair, you feel like your’re a misfit,’ he said.
The very act of standing up from his wheelchair was ‘so emotional’ for Fleming, he told ABC (left) Fleming trained with physical therapists and Indego trainer for two months learning to operate the device (right)
The exoskeleton’s software can detect when Fleming leans forward through the component worn around his hips, signalling the device to direct power to his legs and propel his strides
‘You’re really not, but that’s just some of the emotion you go through.’
So when he learned about a hip and leg exoskeleton designed by Indego, Fleming jumped at the chance to try it out and get back on his feet.
The innovative bionic legs wrap around the hips and legs and respond to the wearer’s lean to power their leg movement.
When the wearer leans forward, the legs power up to help propel a spinal cord injury patient.
Like operating any machine, it takes some practice to learn to work with the exoskeleton.
It’s first used during physical therapy, where a trainer helps the patient learn new assisted gaits for various kinds of movement, like forward over flat ground or up stairs.
Fleming worked with his trainers for two months.
His early were assisted by his father, with the supervision of one of his trainers, Trevor Shamblin.
Moved by the experience and how it will change his life going forward, Fleming fought back tears as he explained what it feels like to stand again after six years
After getting accustomed to his new bionic legs, Fleming was able to go home with the exoskeleton.
For someone who had occasionally felt hope slip away over the last six years, the exoskeleton has given Fleming a new lease on life.
Regaining the use of his lower half has both reaffirmed his motivation to keep going and made simple tasks easier for Fleming.
‘You’re only a failure if you give up,’ he said.
And now, he’s far from that, back to enjoying activities he thought might be impossible for the rest of his life.
‘It helps me just be able to be functional, to be able to walk in the park, play games,’ Fleming says.
‘It makes you feel normal again.’