Vidal Lopez’s first steps in his new legs are careful, but nothing short of incredible.
The 18-year-old, a U.S. citizen born in Naperville but raised in Mexico, had both of his legs amputated last year after his car was struck by a tractor trailer just months after his high school graduation.
Lopez was in a coma for a week, he was left unable to work and forced to put his college dreams on hold.
As the medical bills grew, Lopez’s parents couldn’t afford customized prosthetics.
But on Monday, at the University of Illinois’ Prosthetics Lab, he received new legs, this time with computerized knees.
“The way the knees can, like, bend and is different to walk with this prosthesis,” he said. “When I sued to walk with the mechanical legs it was difficult. With these legs from Autobot you can walk like a normal person.”
The new technology was made possible for Lopez thanks to the help of the Heather Abbott Foundation.
Abbott, who lost one of her legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, has made it her life’s work to see that people like Lopez can afford the prosthetics they need.
“I think it’s very important to anybody who has been injured and has lost a limb, but it’s possible,” she said. “I think that’s the thing. When you know it’s possible and you just can’t afford it.”
Lopez and Abbott met for the first time Monday, an inspirational interaction that has Lopez rethinking his dreams.
The teen who once hoped to have a career in engineering now plans to focus on bionics.
“I think that I can help people like, if people have this kind of accident it would be a great idea to help those people if I can,” he said.