Eric Vlaticovic, volunteer of Walk Again Project
“Generally, in places I go to, whether in basketball or rehabilitation, I find many young people that suffered from injuries and are in a wheelchair. What is clear by looking to them is realizing I was in the same situation, but everything went out right afterwards. It takes more time for some people and less for others. It is not the end of the world as I thought in the beginning. It would be much more difficult alone. In my case, my family was everything I had.
My injury occurred after a seven meters fall. At first, I haven’t noticed the severity of the accident. After I left the hospital, I was totally lost. The first step was to search for a rehabilitation clinic, the AACD. That was when an invitation to participate as volunteer for Walk Again Project came. I didn’t knew exactly what would happen. However, I suspected that it would be a big and especially hopeful thing.
At the beginning, I felt some difficulties. I needed to control and manipulate my thoughts in order to concentrate and possible send signals to the machine. After some days, I started to get more comfortable. When using the exoskeleton for the first time, I felt the sensation of standing on my feet again after more than three years in the wheelchair. It is an indescribable feeling to me.
Certain time passed until I could move using the exoskeleton. The first tests served as a machine adjustment to the body of each patient including mine. Afterwards, we trained the first steps until we managed to kick the ball months before the World Cup opening.
After the event, I read everything in social network about the good and bad parts. However, as a volunteer, I can confirm the Project was actually a success. We are in this Project for more than one year and a half and all of us that trained in the exoskeleton had conditions to kick the ball in the championship opening. Juliano was chosen between us to represent all the team. It was exciting and a victory for everyone. Maybe, if we all were in the field against Germany, Brazil wouldn’t have taken all those goals (laughs).
When I talk about the Project to people, they hardly understand that we can control our movements through the brain. Technically, I also don’t know how to explain, but we surely can walk again.
Perhaps I might not have benefit from this scientific finding, but other people in the future will. We are volunteers opening doors so other disabled people can gain from it. The good part is remembering we are the ones who started this project”.