Real-Life ‘Robocop’ Jeremy Romero Discusses the Power of Community at NWCDC
When a catastrophic injury knocks a worker down, it takes a village to pick them back up. Physicians, therapists, adjusters, employers, nurse case managers — all key players in recovery.
“I found it hard to be separated from that brotherhood with my coworkers,” said Jeremy Romero, a retired deputy with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico. Romero spoke at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo (NWCDC) on Dec. 7, detailing his own journey of injury and recovery.
Romero was paralyzed after he lost control of his patrol car and crashed. His injuries were extensive, but Genex Services provided him with a case manager who really got Romero going again.
She was stern and told Romero that she wasn’t giving up on him, Romero said.
“The case manager said, ‘You are not giving up on yourself, you’re not giving up on your family, and you’re not giving up on your career,’ ” said Romero. “It really motivated me.”
From there, Romero began researching ways to walk again. He found the ReWalk — an exoskeleton suit geared toward paraplegics. He showed his case manager, and she took the reins.
“She came prepared,” said Trish Elizalde, branch manager, Genex Services.
She presented her own research and helped the team feel confident that the benefits of the machine were both medically sound and financially worth it. It was approved by insurance in under a month.
The ticket price on a ReWalk is $95,000, which may seem like a steep price to pay. But Elizalde shared with attendees that, on average, medical costs for a spinal cord paraplegic patient can be upwards of $200,000 per year due to infection, pressure ulcers, respiratory problems and other ailments.
“The case manager said, ‘You are not giving up on yourself, you’re not giving up on your family, and you’re not giving up on your career.’ It really motivated me.” — Jeremy Romero, retired deputy, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office
Romero said having the case manager advocate for his mobility really made this a success story.
“She didn’t allow me to feel defeated. She became a part of my family.”
Now that Romero has been through the gauntlet, he strives to give others in similar positions the community they need. Recently, he reached out to two police officers, who were also paralyzed on the job, to share his experience with them and listen to theirs.
“If it means me being in a wheelchair,” said Romero, he’s happy that he can help teach and give back to his fellow officers. &