For a moment Friday, you could've heard a pin drop at the Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.
Before a crowd of doctors, physical therapists and peers, former Davenport firefighter Bob Juarez walked again with the help of an exoskeleton the hospital system has for inpatients.
After the walk, Juarez said the exoskeleton helps improve his health and his recovery after suffering a spinal cord injury while fighting a fire in 2008.
"Just to be able to look individuals eye to eye, and then physically it helps my overall health," Juarez said. "That's what's exciting about it."
Juarez said it took several hours of training and measuring over a week to use the exoskeleton. Using the exoskeleton to walk gives him a sense of freedom and comes with a variety of physical health benefits, including getting the blood flowing, reduced bone density and helping with muscle mass in his legs.
The walk was part of a Genesis event celebrating its 150th anniversary, going back to one of its founding members. Mercy Hospital was founded in 1859 by the Sisters of Mercy in response to a cholera outbreak in Davenport they happened upon while attempting to build a school in Dewitt.
"Based on the mission of their order, obviously they felt like they needed to start a hospital," president and CEO Doug Cropper said at the event. Mercy Hospital was the third hospital west of the Mississippi and received its first patient Dec. 7, 1869. "They never quite made it to Dewitt, but they did something very important, and that was take care of the sick and dying and mentally ill and other patients that needed to be cared for."
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Genesis Health System as a whole began in 1994 when Mercy Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital in Davenport merged.
Cropper gave his remarks in front of the Genesis history wall, which documents both accomplishments like the first appendectomy and tragedies like the St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Mentally Ill fire, the third deadliest hospital fire in the United States.
This year, Cropper highlighted some of the philanthropic efforts Genesis has done, including raising $100,000 with the Quad-City River Bandits for flood relief and its annual "Pack the Buses" event where school buses are packed with school supplies for schoolchildren.
"This is an opportunity to both look back and also look forward at our exciting future that's in front of us," Cropper said. "The secret of any organization to last 150 years is to reinvent ourselves, and we've done that many times over and we will do that as we look to meet the community need in this region."
Scott County Board of Supervisors Chair Tony Knobbe also read a declaration passed at its last meeting declaring 2019 the Year of Genesis, and declaring Dec. 7 Genesis Health System Day.
After the event, Cropper said to be able to see Juarez walk was incredible. "That we could actually get the technology through fundraising and actually see Bob today at our celebration of our 150th and demonstrate our future technology was just incredible," he said. "It was as exciting for us as it was for him."
Cropper said in the end, it's about the Genesis mission: quality and compassionate healthcare for those in need.
Genesis is hoping to get another exoskeleton in the future for outpatient care as well.