Boy with cerebral palsy walks at graduation months after taking first steps with robotic walker

A Lexington teenager who has cerebral palsy walked down the aisle at his middle school graduation last week, months after taking his first steps with an innovative device the state recently purchased for him.

Gabriel Machado, 15, who is legally blind and non-verbal, graduated from Perkins School for the Blind’s Lower School last Friday.

His family cheered for him as he walked with his “Trexo” – essentially a robotic walker – as his physical therapist guided him down the aisle.

“I see him coming, walking. Oh, my gosh, the emotion,” Gabriel’s mother, Perla Franco, recalled to Boston 25 News Tuesday. “I am crying.”

A physical therapist or family member helps Gabriel maneuver his Trexo with a tablet. The device has robo legs that attach to Gabriel’s walker and strap to his own legs, with battery power assisting his knees and joints to propel himself forward.

“Overall, I think he’s happy all the time, but I think he’s even happier now,” said Gabriel’s sister, Maria Franco-Machado. “It feels really great, because, before, me and my mom were the ones pushing him around, and I feel like he has his own chance to be a bit like the other kids and have more freedom.”

Maria helped assemble the Trexo after her mom researched the device online and ordered it.

The family has since been fundraising and making payments on the Trexo in a lease-to-own program. But about a month ago, Franco learned the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) had agreed to cover the remaining payments – about $26,000.

“Oh, my gosh. I don’t have words. I started crying,” Franco said of receiving the call from the state. “Thank you, Massachusetts. Thank you, DDS.”

“She was almost in tears. I was almost in tears,” Franco’s husband, Michael Pafume, added. “It’s just unreal news when you hear something like that, and it makes you feel good to know there’s good people out there.”

When Gabriel first started using the Trexo, he could walk for a few minutes at a time. But now, Pafume said, he can go for about an hour.

For a boy who doctors expected would never walk, his family now believes nothing is impossible. Maria has started kicking the soccer ball around with her brother and hopes to run with him one day.

“I’m so proud of Gabriel,” Franco said. “It’s so important for him and for us as well as family.”

Gabriel’s family is continuing to fundraise for a service dog for Gabriel after his beloved service dog died. The animal will help improve his mobility, mitigate anxiety and decrease stress.

To donate, click here: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/w/Form/6be81512-c20f-49a2-831b-3a1d961f0d1f.

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