People who've suffered a stroke or brain injury are finding renewed freedom with a device that's allowing them to be independent again.
Every step for Jared Marr of Oakhurst is an accomplishment against the odds. The 22-year-old gets physical therapy at San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Northeast Fresno after a car crash in 2008 nearly killed him.
"I was in a car accident the night after graduating high school," Marr said.
Jared was driving home from an all-night sober grad night party when he fell asleep at the wheel. He crashed head-on into a pickup truck. It took an hour for rescuers to pry him from the wreckage.
Doctors said every part of his brain was injured. His prognosis was not good.
But his mom, Tracy, didn't give up and neither did Jared, who fought to regain his ability to speak and walk.
"He never really had any freedom. 6 foot 4, his age, who wants to be held onto by his mom, you know? He wanted his freedom,' Tracy said.
Jared has that freedom now with a state of the art bracing system called the Bioness. Jared wears a transmitter in his shoes and flexible braces with electrodes, strapped to his knees. The system sends electronic signals to stimulate the muscles to help lift the foot off the ground to walk.
Jared can control the strength of the signals with controllers worn around his neck Physical Therapist and Manager of Outpatient Service Tom Mets says the Bioness rehabilitates the muscles while it's working.
"There are so many benefits, swelling, spasticity reduction, strengthening of the muscles," Mets said.
For Jared, if he got more and more control he could learn to jog and run with the brace. That thought moves his mom to tears.
"Prior to the Bioness, every step he took, took so much out of him," Tracy said.
Now the once-avid athlete can start working on his dream of becoming a teacher and a basketball coach.
As Jared continues his progress of reaching his dream of becoming an English teacher one day, his mom continues her mission. She supports other moms of brain-injured children on her Facebook page and around graduation time, she encourages schools to take a look at their sober grad program to try to discourage kids from staying up all night.
The Bioness system costs about $6 thousand and is covered by most health insurance. As for Jared, he's taking classes at Oakhurst Community College, studying math and health.
Bioness website: www.bioness.com