Amanda Boxtel defied the odds after a skiing accident threatened to stop her from doing what she loved; the solution to her devastation was a bionic exoskeleton suit.
The accident resulted in Boxtel, 24, shattering four vertebrae and suffering paralysis from the waist down. As an athlete and dancer, she feared her accident would prevent her from participating in the activities she loved most.
“Destiny waits for no woman,” Boxtel stated. “There wasn’t the technology we have today. So, I had to figure out a lot for myself. I started my own fitness regimen and found my new life.”
Now, at age 50, Boxtel has revolutionized her life in a rather unusual way. In 2010, she learned about the bionic exoskeleton suit: machines that allow people experiencing mobility issues to walk and move. Boxtel fell in love with the technology and raised the funds to buy her own suit.
Boxtel recalls the first time she was able to stand and walk in the bionic exoskeleton suit vividly. “For the first time,” she explains, “I could look across the room at things high. I wasn’t looking up at nostrils or looking at navels. My world changed. It was not just this amazing physiological thing that happened to me. I could look at someone eye to eye, and I could have that delicious heart to heart hug.”
Because of the exoskeleton suit, Boxtel was able to take 130,000 steps in over a year, and her overall strength increased. She felt guilty, however, because she knew not everyone with mobility issues could afford or access their own suit.
Boxtel remembers thinking, “Amanda, why do you have to be the lucky girl? This is a fully adjustable device. We could get a whole community up and walking with this unit.”
In 2014, Boxtel founded her own nonprofit to help others who were experiencing mobility issues. The nonprofit, Bridging Bionics, provides high-tech physical therapy to people with conditions that affect the spinal cord including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease.
The program has two facilities located near Aspen, Colorado where clients are able to get one-on-one treatment from physical therapists based on personalized plans. So far, Bridging Bionics has helped over 60 people receive free or low-cost therapy that has allowed them to walk again.
“I wanted to … put it into a health club that promoted wellbeing, where someone could just walk in an exoskeleton doing physical therapy, but alongside someone else on a treadmill. Disability can be socially isolating, and we are about bridging community, getting people out of their homes and engaging,” Boxtel stated.
Additionally, Boxtel helps others with their fundraising endeavors so that they can one day own a bionic exoskeleton suit—which can cost around $90,000—for themselves.
Amanda Boxtel is a true badass: not only did she fight until returning to the lifestyle she once loved, she has dedicated her life to ensuring others can do the same. To donate, visit the Bridging Bionics website.
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