A boating accident in 2011 left college lacrosse player, Matt Ficarra, paralyzed from the neck down. However, six months later, he began dating the love of his life, Jordan Basile. Never letting his paralysis get in the way of his adventurous nature, the couple traveled together, went on boating trips and cruises, and loved to watch football together. In December 2013, Ficarra asked Basile to marry him amidst carolers singing her favorite Christmas songs, and she said yes.
Although he was unable to move his legs, Ficarra still had some mobility in his upper body, including his arms. He also retained some feeling in his feet, which made him believe that he would one day be able to walk again.
With his wedding date set, he was determined to walk himself down the aisle.
"I never pictured myself rolling down the aisle in my wheelchair at my wedding," he said.
According to reports, Ficarra spent five months leading up to his big day by driving to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network. The round trip to Allentown, PA every week took him seven hours, but it was the closest available site to him that offered physical therapy with a robotic assistance machine called the Ekso.
The Ekso is a portable bionic exoskeleton that helps patients with weakness or paralysis in their lower extremities to stand up and walk on their own with a natural gait.
Through his hard work, Ficarra set the hospital's record for the most number of steps taken by any patient using the Ekso in an hour.
On Oct. 18, one of Ficarra's and Basile's dreams came true when he was able to walk down the aisle at their wedding thanks to the Ekso device. (For safety reasons, Ficarra's physical therapist, Nicole Smith, kept her hand on his back.)
"I'm so happy for him. Walking down that aisle means a lot to him. But for me, it doesn't really matter. He could be sitting or crawling down the aisle - all that matters to me is that he's by my side," Basile said proudly of her husband.
Ficarra is hoping to own an Ekso for himself one day to allow him to have independence with his mobility everyday, but the first device for home use won't be available until the summer of 2015 and will cost approximately $130,000.
A fundraiser on the You Caring site has been set up to raise the amount needed.
Ficarra has also been petitioning his local government to obtain an Ekso for their local hospital's rehab center so that others may benefit from the bionic technology.