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iBOT Personal Mobility Device

Derek's story in his words. 

My name is Derek Avilez and I am an incomplete C2 quadriplegic. I am also a husband and a father to three amazing kids ages 17, 14 and 12. My wife Priscilla is my full-time caregiver and full time homeschool mom. My three kids have learned to be a big help in my care. We live in South Florida and are a very active family that enjoys the beach, the kids sporting events and getting out and about in the community.


In 2006, after hard work and sacrifice, I was given the honor of being hired as a firefighter/paramedic in the city of Hollywood. This would be the most rewarding career I ever had. Nothing compares to the feeling of helping people in their time of need. This was unlike any other job I've ever worked because every day you show up to the fire house you have no idea what the day holds. It is so amazing to see the look on the peoples face when they are in their time of desperation and the look of relief when you show up is hard to put into words. I was able to be on the front lines for four years before suffering my spinal cord injury.


The date was September 30, 2010 and I was enjoying the beach with my wife and three young kids. The water was too cold so they did not want to get in, so I decided to go skim boarding like I've been doing for 20+ years. I used the wave as a ramp and don't really remember exactly what happened after that. I just know that the wave hit me incorrectly stopping my flip. I woke up floating face down in the water and knew instantly that I broke my neck. I tried flipping over and was unsuccessful, starting to lose air I started to conserve my breath like they taught us in the Fire Academy. They got to the point where I could no longer hold my breath and I just remember praying and telling God “here I come”. My wife saw me floating and ran out to see what I was doing and rolled me over. I started to turn blue and she screamed for help. Three of my coworkers were at a nearby bar and heard her scream. They came running not knowing it was her and not knowing it was me that needed help. They were able to stabilize my neck and give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I was rushed to the ER where it was discovered that I suffered an incomplete C2 spinal cord injury. I will end up spending the next six months in the ICU in three different hospitals. After much prayer and hard-work I would be weaned off the ventilator and able to breathe on my own while also being able to move my extremities slightly. The next step would be outpatient therapy. There I was able to do aquatic therapy and really improve the movement that I had in my extremities. I am now able to move my left arm and both legs but am still confined to a wheelchair.


            During this time I was able to return to work at the fire station in a light duty status. This is the position I currently hold with the department. I am still able to use my paramedic knowledge in reviewing all of our 911 paramedic calls for quality assurance. I have been with the department now for 15 years and I am very grateful I can still contribute in making sure the citizens of Hollywood and South Florida visitors are receiving the best possible care.


            When I was first introduced to the iBOT I was truly blown away by the world it would open up for individuals living in a wheelchair. Being an active individual, this chair will help me reach places that otherwise I am not able to go. The features this chair brings are very exciting and truly life-changing. Among all the benefits, I will actually be able to exit my front door to my house without ramps and be able to go to my kids soccer field and not worry about getting stuck. I also look forward to going to the beach and being able to be eye level with my peers. During the iBOT tour, I was able to see firsthand how life changing the chair is! Being able to actually sit in the iBOT and get a firsthand feel for it was an amazing experience. Thank you to all those that support American Mobility Project and the Gary Sinise Foundation.  I am honored these two organizations collaborated on this effort to get me a life changing iBOT Personal Mobility Device.

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