Robots In Disguise: Paralyzed Veteran Becomes First Woman To Complete The NYC Marathon Wearing A Robotic Exoskeleton

With the help of a robotic exoskeleton, retired Army Sergeant Theresa Vereline just completed the New York City Marathon—making her the first paralyzed American to do so.

Screenshot via CBS

“Words cannot express the feelings I had crossing the finish line,” 65-year-old Vereline said in a press release. “This has been a dream of mine, and I hope I can serve as an inspiration to others that you too can achieve what seems like the impossible — especially all of the disabled children I meet across the country.”

The exoskeleton, which is called the ReWalk 5.0, is a suit intended to help paraplegics move with the help of crutches for balance. Vereline, who became paralyzed in 2011, was the first veteran to received the device following its FDA clearance. She has traveled extensively to discuss how important the exoskeleton has been to her and the positive effect it has had on her health and wellbeing.

Now, Vereline can speak about how the exoskeleton helped make her New York City Marathon dreams come true.

Vereline completed the first 10 mile stretch over the course of three days under the supervision of the New York Road Runners, the organization that hosts the marathon.

She walked 10 miles on Nov. 1st, 10 miles on Nov. 2nd, and finished the rest of the 6.2 miles on the day of the actual marathon. Vereline crossed the finish line on November 3rd a5 6:35 PM.

Screenshot via CBS

“We are incredibly proud of her. Her achievement at the marathon and her efforts to help others with disability are inspirations to us all,” Andy Dolan, ReWalk’s vice president of marketing wrote in an email.

Other robotics companies besides ReWalk, such as Esko Bionics, Rex Bionics, and SuitX have jumped in on the growing trend and are offering therapeutic exoskeleton models to help people with spinal cord injuries increase their mobility.

Increased mobility doesn’t just help folks with spinal cord injuries feel more independent. There are serious health risks associated with immobility, such as urinary tract infections, chronic pain, ulcers, and risk of cardiovascular disease. Any way a person can increase blood circulation and oxygen flow can help.

Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi