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Former Davenport firefighter takes first steps after spinal cord injury

Bob Juarez was injured in a fall while fighting a fire in 2008.

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A former Davenport Firefighter took his first steps in public with the help of an exoskeleton, after suffering a spinal cord injury, for the first time in more than ten years.

Robert Juarez fell off a ladder while fighting a fire in 2008. But, his injury hasn't stopped him from staying positive and creating change.

"His positivity is infectious," his wife Nancy Juarez says. "That's never changed."

Juarez says staying positive is what keeps him healthy. He adds that staying healthy and in shape is what qualified him to use the exoskeleton to walk for the first time.

"No matter what, you can overcome those problems and issues and hopefully stay positive and live a healthy life," Juarez says.

Since 2008, he helped start Quad City Adaptive Sports, to encourage others stay active.

"Socializing with others, you learn about others with the same problems, and help each other in that way," he says.

He's also an ambassador for Genesis Health System, advocating for people with disabilities. He wants to raise money for Genesis to buy a second exoskeleton for outpatient rehab.

For Juarez, using the exoskeleton is more than just getting back on his feet.

"Seeing eye-to-eye with somebody and having a conversation with them is a great feeling," he says.