On April 2, Adam will become the first paralyzed man in history to walk the Cooper River Bridge Run. On April 2, Adam will become the first paralyzed man in history to walk the Cooper River Bridge Run. On April 2, Adam will become the first paralyzed man to walk the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston. (Photo: Charleston Magazine)

Paralyzed South Carolina man to make history by competing in 10K race

With high-tech wearable device from Israel, he's regained the ability to walk and play basketball.

Ten years ago, college student Adam Gorlitsky fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from Columbia, South Carolina, to Charleston. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and crashed the car, breaking his back. When he woke up, he was paralyzed from the waist down.

Today, the 29-year-old Gorlitsky is not only walking, but he’s preparing to take part in the Cooper River Bridge Run, an annual 10-kilometer event in Charleston, on April 2. It's all made possible by a wearable exoskeleton called ReWalk, which enables him to stand and walk. Invented in Israel, it’s the first such system approved by the FDA for rehabilitative and personal use.

It was invented by Israeli entrepreneur Dr. Amit Goffer, who awoke from an accident as a quadriplegic, and then set out to invent an alternative to the wheelchair. ReWalk has been approved for personal and clinical use in Europe, Canada, the U.S. and Israel.

“I first heard about ReWalk through YouTube videos when it was in clinical trials and the research phase,” Gorlitsky told From The Grapevine. “As a member of the Roper St. Francis Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Center, they asked me if I wanted to try out the ReWalk. One month later, I stood up for the first time and took my first steps. And immediately I said, ‘I need to do the Cooper River Bridge Run.’ What better way to reclaim the lower half of my body than to run a race with half a million people, my friends and family in my hometown?"

Though he’s never done a 10K race before, Gorlitsky played basketball and ran track and cross country in high school and says his love of sports helped him keep his spirits up in dark moments. “I always held out hope I would walk again,” he says. “As the years went on, that hope started to diminish, which is why the ReWalk is so amazing. ReWalk gave me back my hope.”

The fact that he has good bone density and meets the height and weight requirements (between 5’3” to 6’3” and up to 220 pounds) made Gorlitsky a good candidate for the ReWalk. The first time he put it on, “It felt like ‘Avatar’ the movie, where the main character is paralyzed and walks again. I felt free and empowered,” Gorlitsky told us. “I once again had control of my body.”

There was a learning curve, he adds, “but it has gotten a lot easier over time. I still cannot feel my legs or the ground I walk on,” he says, and it’s difficult to walk and talk at the same time.

The ReWalk will enable him to make a good living – he’s a filmmaker and entrepreneur – and be an example for others via the nonprofit he established, I Got Legs. “It’s given me a sense of purpose,” Gorlitsky said. A recent U.S. court ruling that designated the ReWalk as medically necessary will give many more people access to it, he says. “The more people are able to obtain these systems, the faster this technology will be able to evolve and improve over time.”

Gorlitsky has big plans for the future. “I want to do many more races. I want to literally walk across America. My goal is to raise awareness and promote I Got Legs to help others gain access to the technology. The best way this technology can evolve is through user feedback, so I want to be able to give them as much feedback as possible,” he says.

“My future is bright. I felt great about my future beforehand,” Gorlitsky revealed. “But now, from a physical standpoint, knowing I could walk down the aisle to my future wife or hug a future child standing up. That’s an incredible feeling.”

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