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Paralyzed man finishes marathon, beats world record using high-tech exoskeleton

Adam Gorlitsky was 19 years old when a car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Credit: Adam Gorlitsky

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Suffering a spinal cord injury can take away the use of one's legs, and sometimes arms as well. 

But, the one thing it can't take away is a person's spirit -- as is the case with Adam Gorlitsky.

On Dec. 30, 2005, 19-year-old Adam Gorlitsky, of Charleston, South Carolina, was involved in a car crash which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

His doctors didn't think he would ever walk again. Gorlitsky had different plans. 

His rehabilitation center had a ReWalk Robotic Exoskeletona high-tech bodysuit that helps spinal cord injury patients walk.

Credit: Adam Gorlitsky

However, the exoskeleton comes with a high price tag -- about $100,000. Gorlitsky started a fundraising campaign and before he knew it, he had enough money to buy his own.

In 2016, he became the first paralyzed man to cross the finish line of the Cooper River Bridge Run. That same year, he started I GOT LEGS, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of the disabled community.

“When I’m standing and walking in my exoskeleton, I do not feel disabled, nor do I feel able-bodied, I feel ReEnabled. ReEnabled just means that I feel empowered, like nothing can keep me from achieving what I want to do," Gorlitsky said.

Over the weekend, he completed the 2020 Charleston Marathon. He beat the world record for the fastest time to finish a marathon in an exoskeleton suit. His official time: 33 hours, 16 minutes and 28 seconds.

"I was absolutely exhausted when crossing the finish line. My whole body literally went into shock after they got me back in my chair. I spent almost three hours in the medic tent afterward, shivering and getting an IV drip," Gorlitsky told 10News.

Credit: Adam Gorlitsky

Gorlitsky says he uses the exoskeleton 2-4 times a week, mostly for recreational purposes. 

"I describe it like my version of NASCAR," Gorlitsky said.

The suit also has an added benefit.

"I’ve also lost a bunch of weight, and increased muscle. I’m 4 foot 9 when I sit in my wheelchair, and 6 foot when I stand in my exoskeleton. So, maybe I feel a little sexier when I’m in it too," he said.

Follow Gorlitsky on Facebook, Instagramand Twitter.

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