Teen paralyzed in crash stands on feet


LAREDO, Texas — A Texas 16-year-old paralyzed in a car crash during February’s winter storm is amazing doctors with his recovery, thanks to technology.

Ernie Martinez, a star high school athlete, injured his spine after the car he was in hit a block of ice on Feb. 14 in Laredo, where he’s from.

“We kind of shifted to the left and right and left again, and we went into the ditch and we started flipping. I don’t remember flying out, but I remember being in the air, seeing the floor. I passed out,” Martinez told KSAT.

When he woke up, he was at University Hospital in San Antonio.

“I couldn’t feel my legs or anything under my chest,” Martinez recalled.

The teen was treated at University Hospital’s Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, which opened in October 2019. It’s the only center of its kind in South Texas, allowing severely injured children to accomplish the impossible.

That’s especially true for Martinez, who some doctors said would never walk again.

But he’s proving otherwise thanks to a wearable machine called the Exoskeleton.

It allows patients to stand and walk, which stretches Martinez’s muscles and puts pressure on his bones, preserving bone health and preparing him to one day walk on his own again.

“I just want my legs back. I’m going to get them soon. The Exoskeleton will help me get them back,” Martinez said.

His family said they want others dealing with spinal cord injuries to know attitude and support matter, and improvement is possible.

The blackout during the winter storm was one of the worst power outages in U.S. history.

Last week, Texas officials raised the death toll to at least 111 people, nearly doubling the state’s initial tally.

The majority of the deaths are associated with hypothermia, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. And the dramatic number of new victims may still be an undercount, as officials continue investigating deaths that happened around the time the storm knocked out power to more than 4 million customers in Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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