For the first time in his young life, Dakota Privette has discovered how it feels to stand up and walk.
At age 20 he took his first steps, courtesy of an "exoskeleton" robotic device made by Rex Bionics, an overseas firm with facilities in Great Britain and New Zealand.
“He just kept saying ‘This is amazing! This is amazing! I’m standing! I’m moving!’’’ his mother, Donna Funderburk, told InsideEdition.com on Wednesday.
The futuristic device that allows Dakota to walk is not yet available for sale in the U.S., but his mother has established a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise $160,000 to buy one after the FDA completes its testing of the machine.
Privette has an identical twin who suffers none of the ailments that have made the young man’s life a series of trials. He was born with severe scoliosis, cerebral palsy and other afflictions.
Doctors suggested letting Dakota perish, to better the survival odds of twin Elijah, when they were born at 29 weeks.
“We decided to go for both,” their mother said.
Dakota “has seen his brother doing things over the years that he couldn’t,” she said. “It was hard for him, and I know it hurt him.”
He “was never OK with not being able to walk. He searched the internet for ways that he could walk,” his mother said. Then he discovered Rex Bionics, and his parents learned the device was being tested in Tampa, Florida, an 11-hour drive from their South Carolina home.
The family made the trip earlier this year. Dakota was fitted with the exoskeleton and as his parents watched and wept, he took his first steps.
“He was so excited,” his mother said. “He’s spent his lifetime sitting in a wheelchair with people looking down at him and him having to look up.”
Dakota’s scoliosis was so severe he had to undergo multiple surgeries to implant rods in his back, and then extend those rods as he grew taller. He also suffers from a lung disease that causes him to get sick very easily, his mother said.
“But he has a ‘conquer all’ attitude,” she said. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself.
“He’s had to fight really hard to be here,” she said, and now he wants the device that allows him to walk tall.
“He’s obsessed with it,” his mother added.