Good Samaritan Foundation donors give paralyzed man second chance
Juan Carlos Rubio was working on a dairy farm in October 2016 when a 1,200-pound hay bale fell on top of him, crushing his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Recently, however, he walked through Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services office in Northwest Portland, into the elevator, through the lobby and out to the sidewalk. With the help of a robotic device that powers his legs, Rubio made his way to the end of the block and back, 756 steps.
Rubio is one of the first Legacy Health patients to try the Indego Exoskeleton, a battery-powered device strapped to his legs that helps move them forward, step-by-step. The Exoskeleton was purchased with the support of Legacy Health’s Good Samaritan Foundation and its generous donors.
So far, more than a dozen people have used the device. By helping patients stand up and walk, the Exoskeleton aids circulation, respiration, bone density and bowel and bladder function.
It also provides an emotional lift, helping patients out of their wheelchairs, giving them a new perspective on the world around them.
“It gets you back up eye-to-eye with people,” says Kila Mitchell, a physical therapist who works with Rubio and other patients.
The Indego Exoskeleton includes braces for each leg that provide powered assistance at the hips and knees, as well as a battery pack that fits at the lower back. With a walker or crutches to provide stability, patients lean forward to walk and stand upright to stop.
In a T-shirt, sweatpants and black Nikes, Rubio made his trek to the corner and back with a walker for support and Mitchell guiding him from behind. The walk wasn’t easy. Leaning on the walker left his hands and arms sore.
“Like any new skill,” Mitchell says, “it’s hard in the beginning and then it gets easier.”
Rubio’s insurance will cover the costs of his own Exoskeleton. He looks forward to going to his daughter’s softball games, moving more easily around the house and maybe transitioning to crutches.
It will take practice and patience. But less than two years after the accident, coming to Legacy Good Samaritan and discovering the Exoskeleton have given him hope.
“I feel great now,” he says. “I really like coming here.”
For more information about supporting Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center, please contact Rena Whittaker, executive director of Good Samaritan Foundation, at 503-413-5585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.