'I do, I do, I do'
Daniel and Csala Beers kiss after being pronounced man and wife at Ontelaunee Park in New Tripoli on Saturday, July 7. Dan stands with assistance from the Ekso bionic exoskeleton suit.
Eleven years after being told he would never walk again, Daniel Beers walked into the arms of his beloved and said "I do."
A motorcycle accident in 2002 had shattered two of his vertebrae, leaving the Slatington man paralyzed from the waist down.
New technology helped him not only stand for the ceremony last weekend at Ontelaunee Park in New Tripoli, but walk a short distance to join his bride, Csala Peters, at the altar.
Beers shared his story at a physical therapy session at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown recently.
"It was 5:30 in the evening on a nice sunny day," Beers said, recalling the accident. "I was leaving a friend's house after a Labor Day party and my mind was wandering. As I went around a curve, I was going a little fast and I lost control of my bike.
"When I came to, I could just tell that my legs didn't work. Fortunately, I still had use of my arms and I had a cell phone in my pocket."
His life was changed forever by a moment of distraction.
According to the KÃÂ¼bler-Ross model of grieving, the initial reaction to loss is denial followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Since his accident, Beers has had plenty of time to accept his disability. Despite his injury, he remains active and outgoing.
"When the doctor told me I would never walk again, I just refused to believe it," he said. "Now look at me."
Beers said he never believed he would get married or have a family. He was wrong.
"I never thought I would be so blessed to find anyone as wonderful as Csala to spend my life with. I am so blessed to have her," he said, as a tear formed in his eye.
Beers met Peters at an Independence Day party in 2005. Their first date wasn't until a year later, when they met up to ride ATVs.
After spending some time corresponding via email, Peters moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania and got a job at a bank. She started school in 2007. They delayed marriage so that she could finish her degree in elementary and special education.
She is now employed by the Bethlehem Area School District.
While Peters was working on completing her education, Beers was working hard at physical therapy. He was able to walk for the first time since his accident by using Kafo leg braces, a walker, and a state-of-the-art bionic exoskeleton suit made by Ekso Bionics.
Ekso is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that allows people with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. Last year, Good Shepherd became one of the first post-acute rehabilitation facilities in the United States to have the Ekso.
The battery-powered device is strapped over the user's clothing and used in therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Since starting therapy with the Ekso, Beers reports that his leg muscles are getting stronger, he has more muscle tone, and his leg spasms are reduced.
"I think it is great, the advancement is great in this thing. I can feel my muscles getting stronger; I don't care if the doctors say they won't, I feel they are," said Beers.
"I found my balance very quickly without any problems. All I have to do is shift my weight and this thing completes the movement.
"I hope other people with spinal injuries have the chance to benefit with this."
Emily Eider, Good Shepherd's Marketing and Communications coordinator, said the suit was not covered by Beer's insurance, but was provided as a donation from Good Shepherd's Women's Giving Circle.
Although it was intended for exclusive use in his physical therapy, they offered to allow Beers to use the suit to walk down the aisle when he and Peters would exchange vows.
Last Saturday, surrounded by family and friends, the ceremony began with Beers walking out from behind the stage to stand at the altar. The assembled guests applauded his short but fateful walk.
Other than moving his legs, there is not much Beers can't do.
He works at Ruchman's Ski and Snow Board in Allentown. He and Peters ride ATVs, go whitewater rafting and ski. He uses a Freedom Factory monoski to zip down the slopes at speeds that often exceed those of able-bodied skiers because monoskis are aerodynamically designed and therefore create less drag.
He has a hand bike and he has even taken a dip in the ocean using a Hippocampe VIPAMAT beach wheelchair.
Peters said she is not daunted by the difficulties she might face as the spouse of a person with disabilities.
"He was in a wheelchair when I met him, I love him for him. He takes care of himself pretty well and is quite autonomous," she said.
She did, however, joke that she would divorce him if he ever got on a motorcycle again.
The newlyweds are looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together.
Beers may never walk without assistance, but to walk and stand for his wedding made his life better. He hopes others in his situation can benefit from the Ekso and that medical science may one day allow him to walk without help.
"If I could walk again, I would walk everywhere and anywhere," said Beers. "I would start running again.
"With the advancements that we have now, I am confident it could happen one day."