Joaquim de Freitas, 39, of Delmar, thought it was going to be a normal day at work … until it wasn’t.
An injury resulted in paralysis of the lower portion of his body, leaving Joaquim unable to work or take care of his wife and children.
While he admits it was truly a scary and shocking outcome, he is grateful for his employer, family, friends, and the team at Aquacare Physical Therapy in Salisbury for all working together to help him move forward.
His company partnered with ReWalk, which makes exoskeletons for people with injuries similar to Joaquim’s so that they can learn to walk again. Without the partnership and the work of the Aquacare team to learn how to operate the ReWalk exoskeleton, Joaquim admits his life would look a lot different.
During a recent physical therapy session, Joaquim demonstrated how he can now position himself in the ReWalk unit, and once it is strapped tightly and he is standing, walk around the room.
“It’s hard work,” he says. “But I am getting there.”
Joaquim has regular sessions with Brooke Mihalek and Jessica Wood of the Aquacare team.
“When we first learned of his situation and about ReWalk, there were a lot of calls and a lot of materials to learn,” Brooke says.
Never ones to back down from a challenge, Brooke and Jessica put together a detailed program for Joaquim so he could learn to use the ReWalk successfully.
At the end of the recent session, Joaquim was able to walk multiple laps around the room in the ReWalk. He and his wife, who helps him greatly at home and with transportation, were all smiles.
Joaquim has been a patient at Aquacare Salisbury – Injury Center since the end of March following his life changing injury in December of 2022.
“Joaquim pushes himself each and every session to progress his strength, stamina, and stability with the goal to be as independent and as present in life as possible,” said Brooke Mihalek, PTA. “He has a wife and teenage twins that are active in extracurricular activities where he wants to remain involved.”
In an effort to seek all opportunities available to him, he reached out to ReWalk Robotics to learn more about their exoskeleton and myocycle products to see if he would be a good fit. Thankfully, he is an ideal candidate and with Aquacare’s help, he has gone through the process to receive an in-person trial of the exoskeleton.
“I was able to do a Zoom meeting with one of the representatives to discuss the upcoming processes to be aware of what would be needed from myself and our team during Joaquim’s next few visits,” Jessica Wood, DPT said. “We were able to set up a Zoom meeting during one of his sessions to collect objective data where one of their representatives walked me through each of the measurements they needed to see or collect.”
Mihalek and Wood then completed a training session on the device, using the software, and the training process.
“It was an exciting day when a representative from ReWalk came out to help us complete a trial of the device,” Mihalek said. “Jess and I got to work with the device while it was empty to better understand how it works and its components. Then we were able to get Joaquim in the exoskeleton and have him complete a trial of all the basic skills to evaluate how it fits him and his ability to utilize the device.”
Aquacare and Joaquim are finalizing the remaining paperwork to justify medical necessity so Joaquim can be approved to receive the device.
Aquacare recently found out that Joaquim has been approved for his own ReWalk exoskeleton!
He will continue to work with the Aquacare team to achieve his goals and he will be able to work with the ReWalk team to increasingly use the components of the exoskeleton.
“Now we practice, practice, practice,” Wood said. “Our sessions are dedicated to training with Joaquim in the device so he can learn self-management skills of donning, doffing and skin checks; transfers from sit to stand and stand to sit; and of course walking!”