Exoskeleton helps Minnesota veteran walk again

It takes a few straps and snaps and less than 10 minutes to put on. Now, a Minnesota veteran is doing something he wasn’t able to. 

He can walk.

“It’s so nice to be able to just stand up and look someone in the eye and talk to them,” said Jim Dahlin, a veteran who uses Exoskeleton. “That’s what I enjoy the most.”

Dahlin was diagnosed with hereditary spastic paraplegia when he was 50 years old. It’s a rare disease that makes it nearly impossible to walk.

“I still can use my legs a little bit to help me stand, but if I try to take a step without any support I’ll fall over,” Dahlin said.

The Vietnam veteran found out about the VA’s Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Center in Minneapolis and learned about the Exoskeletons they’re using there. It gets those with spinal cord injuries and diseases up and moving again.

“One of the funnest things for me is to see their faces the first time they stand up again and take steps,” said Dr. Stephanie Boyle, the director of the Spinal Cord Center. “So, it does make a huge difference.”

Eventually, Dahlin qualified for the VA to buy him an exoskeleton. He was the first veteran in the country to get one and they’re not cheap. They can start at $70,000.

“It is an absolute blessing because there’s not really an insurance company paying for these,” said Chris Schieffer, a physical therapist at the VA. “We’re one of the few areas in the world that we can afford these types of technologies for our veterans.”

Those at the VA say there’s no one more worthy of this life-changing technology.

“These are America’s veterans,” Schieffer said. “Nobody deserves it more than them.”