INDIANAPOLIS — More than 20 years after IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt was paralyzed in a crash during practice for a race, he's back on his feet.
(Note: The video in the player above is from a 2017 story about Sam Schmidt.)
The TODAY show shared the latest steps in Schmidt's inspiring story Wednesday, showing him take his first steps since early 2000 with the help of technology. An exoskeleton helps stabilize his legs, allowing him to stand and walk forward as someone aids his balance from behind.
The technology, which Schmidt refers to as version "1.0," is being developed by Arrow Technologies, the title sponsor of Schmidt's Arrow McLaren SP racing team. He showed off his new ability by walking into his team garage at IMS recently.
“I've almost ran out of words to describe the feeling in this entire process,” Schmidt told TODAY. “Epic. Mega. Unbelievable. After 21 years, I didn't remember what the view was like... I haven't gotten a full-body hug in 21 years, you know. And we got some of those today."
In an equally emotional meeting, Schmidt visited with Tim Baughman, a paramedic who worked on the safety crew that responded to the crash in Orlando 21 years ago.
“I've been a paramedic for 38 years,” he told TODAY with Schmidt standing by. “We don't see this — I mean, it's just inspirational as hell.”
RELATED: Read the full story from TODAY
Since the crash, Schmidt has been dedicated to the research to help cure paralysis. He created the Conquer Paralysis Now foundation just 14 months after the crash and was the first person in the nation to receive a license to drive a semi-autonomous vehicle, when the State of Nevada issued him the license in 2016.
In 2018, he drove TODAY correspondent Harry Smith around New York City in a car that was completely controlled by Schmidt, who used a tube in his mouth to control speed and braking. Sensors in his sunglasses monitored his eye movement, turning the car whichever direction he looked.
He has even turned laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the car, both on the oval and in a race with Mario Andretti, who drove an identical car around the IMS road course.
While the work continues to improve the device, it already helped Schmidt achieve another goal - he was able to dance with his daughter at her wedding.
“I'm surprised I have any tears left,” Schmidt said. “It's been a wild month, for sure.”