ESTERO, Fla.- A gunshot victim is working to regain his independence.
Tony Almeida was shot twice by a former coworker on May 15th, 2010. One of the bullets hit his spinal cord, leaving him unable to walk, but an Anti-Gravity Treadmill, designed by NASA, is aiding in Tony's fight to hopefully walk on his own one day.
WINK went to the Life Care Center of Estero and shows us how the treadmill has helped in Tony's rehabilitation.
"In my spinal cord injury, I somehow lost how to walk, I could stand up, but I just couldn't figure out how to make that step," said Almeida.
Tony Almeida has been robbed of something that was once simple for him, the ability to walk on his own.
"When I was bored or had nothing to do, I used to drive to Barefoot Beach, park on the beach, walk up and down the beach, and now I have not been on the beach in three years."
In 2010, Tony was the victim of revenge. He was ambushed, attacked, handcuffed and gagged by former coworker Craig Spitz, while working his shift as a congierge at the Inn at Bonita Springs.
"I don't think I'll forget the moment I picked up the faxes from the copy machine and turned around, Craig met me with a gun to my face and the whole thing started," explained Almeida.
He was shot twice and one of the bullets hit his spinal chord leaving unable to walk....Until now....
"It's a good feeling to know I can compete with people on a treadmill with this big balloon around me."
This medical device, similar to a treadmill was designed by NASA. The Anti-Gravity AlterG is giving Tony a piece of his life back.
Here's how it works. He slips on these spandex shorts, steps on the treadmill, and zips into the chamber that surrounds his lower body. The AlterG fills with air, inflating the chamber lifting you off your feet. It creates a reduced-gravity environment, allowing up to 80% of a persons weight to be relieve when walking and running.
"It gives me so much more normalcy, because when I'm in it, I feel like I am walking regularl with nothing and no assisted devices," said Almeida.
These cameras allow Tony to watch every step.
"It enabled me to see where I was stepping wrong and correcting myself."
He is now walking up to 45 minutes straight at about 50 to 60% weight bearing.
"By getting inside these tight pants, getting pressurized with our feet on the treadmill, and once it starts moving forward, we have no other choice but to start the process."
This is a tool that helped Tony regain the feeling of what it is like to walk again. He hopes one day the AlterG will help him walk independently.
Tony has graduated from the rehab program and still has the bullet in his left shoulder. He recently received the Dave Clark Foundation's "Pulling Each Other Along" award for his contributions with Southwest Florida's spinal cord injury support group.