System News

Thursday, February 6, 2020 - Donors rally around paralyzed 14-year-old Wando High student, give $170,000 for powered exoskeleton

Sydney Fowler with Roper Rehabilitation Hospital staff
Sydney Fowler

Ever since a spinal staph infection left Sydney Fowler paralyzed a year ago, the 14-year-old has shown tremendous courage and resilience in reaching her goal of learning to walk again.

Most days, the bright, smiley Sydney is hard at work, gaining strength and mobility in Roper Rehabilitation Hospital.

“I don’t want to live sadly,” Sydney recently told News Channel 2. “I just feel like that’s not living at all. Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I’m not normal.”

Now the Wando High School teen and her family is leveraging her paralysis to help others.

On Tuesday, $170,000 was contributed to the Roper St. Francis Foundation through the generosity of The Fowler Family, Ekso Bionics and Dr. Julius Ivester and the physicians of Anesthesia Associates of Charleston.  Collectively, these three parties helped Roper St. Francis Healthcare secure this new technology that will benefit Sydney and many other patients.

The Ivester Middleton Fund was established by Dr. Julius Ivester and Anesthesia Associates of Charleston to support quality and patient care initiatives.

The Fowler Family’s contribution was raised by their community of friends and family that all wanted to show support for Sydney. The Fowler Family came to the Foundation with the idea to utilize these funds in a way that would benefit Sydney and others facing similar journeys in learning to walk and use their legs again.

Owen Reilly was the representative from EksoBionics that attended the celebration.

Sydney was hospitalized just before Christmas 2018 with a staph infection in her spine. The infection put pressure on her spinal cord, resulting in loss of feeling and mobility in her legs.

Since then through an outpouring of support from the community, the Fowler family raised enough money to install an in-house elevator. They had enough money to help purchase a Ekso Smart, but Sydney said she wanted to help other patients who had suffered a stroke or otherwise couldn’t walk and didn’t have the ability to seek treatment far away.

“We could have gotten it just for our house, but I mean what is it going to do? Just sit in my house and not be used?” Sydney told News Channel 2. “That’s unfair there are people who need that.”

On Tuesday, members of the Roper Rehab team, along with Dr. Julius Ivester, gathered in Roper Rehab for a check presentation to thank Sydney and her family for their overwhelming generosity to help others.

“Sydney, you are an example of perseverance,” Roper St. Francis Healthcare Vice President of Post-Acute Services Troy Powell said. “We are indebted to you all and we really appreciate your support.”

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