Taking A Stand for Love

On a beautiful summer Saturday, Dan Beers achieved something remarkable. Injured 11 years ago in a motorcycle accident that broke his back, paralyzing his legs, Dan walked to the altar to take his wedding vows with his long-time fiancée, Csala Peters.

 “When I stood and looked into Csala’s eyes, it was amazing,” says Dan, recalling the outdoor ceremony held July 6 at Ontel-aunee Park in New Tripoli. “We were eye level. It was the best part of the day.”

“As the music started, I got really emotional,” adds Csala, “because I knew I was going to see him standing. I kind of lost it.”

Dan’s accident cost him many things that day – the use of his legs, his livelihood working in a manufacturing plant and the ability to participate in a wide range of sports, from running to mountain biking. But with the use of the Ekso bionic exoskeleton that Dan uses in therapy at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, the Slatington resident is on track to leading a fulfilling life, now more than ever with his lovely wife.

Ekso is a wearable, robotic exoskeleton made by Ekso Bionics that allows those with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. The battery-powered device is strapped over the user’s clothing and used in therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries, like Dan.

Since starting therapy with the Ekso, Dan says his leg muscles are getting stronger, he has more muscle tone and his leg spasms are reduced. He also has developed the strength to use Kafo leg braces and a walker in therapy.

Dan and Csala met eight years ago at a Fourth of July party when she was visiting her sister. Csala was living in Ohio at the time and had a boyfriend, but she and Dan hit it off from the start.

“Her boyfriend didn’t like it,” Dan says with a little smile.

Csala returned to the area that September for her birthday. She and Dan went four-wheeling on their first date. He proposed to her April 6, 2007, at Niagara Falls with a room overlooking the famed Horseshoe Falls. They held off tying the knot until Csala completed her degree in elementary and special education. She works as a substitute special education teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District.

Dan is now using the Ekso with Variable Assist software. This next generation of Ekso technology lets therapists augment their patients’ strength by tuning the amount of power contributed to help walking efforts for either leg. Good Shepherd is the first health-care organization in North America to receive the software.

They say that behind every successful man is a great woman, and in Dan’s case, there’s a whole group of them. In 2012, members of the Women’s Giving Circle at Good Shepherd, made a $43,000 gift establishing the Ekso Scholarship which helps Ekso users like Dan stay consistent with their therapy when there’s a gap in medical
benefit coverage.

Pat Lockard, chair of the Women’s Circle, brings her own unique perspective to the gift. In 1970, 10 days before her own wedding, Pat was on her way to pick up her mother’s shoes for the wedding when her car was rear-ended by another car at 35 miles per hour. Among her most serious injuries was a fractured skull, a concussion and a broken nose.

“Something like that changes your outlook entirely when you’re down and out and unable to do for yourself,” says Pat.

Dan and Csala both know the steps they took to find one another were the first of many in a life together that will only get stronger.

“Csala and I were both excited and thankful for the opportunity to use the Ekso at our wedding,” says Dan. “Using the Ekso to walk makes me feel like me again.”

Emily Eider contributed to this article.