83-year-old paraplegic walks across stage to receive high school diploma

Jun 18, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 2 comments

Rocky Cuevas, center, learned to walk again thanks to the help of his daughter and son-in-law, Margi and Tim Titta, shown here with him in their Port Clinton home. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

When 83-year-old Rocky Cuevas of Port Clinton was recovering from an accident that broke his back and left him a paraplegic, he didn’t waste time on self-pity. Instead, he utilized the time to strain for two goals: he wanted to walk again, and he wanted to earn a high school diploma.

Cuevas, then 81 years old, was in his 16th year of working for a local construction company when, on May 5, 2022, he fell from scaffolding onto cement and broke his back. He spent the next two years learning to walk and learning what he needed to know to become a high school graduate.

Cuevas was living in Texas when he dropped out of eighth grade to help his family work in the fields, where he put in 10-hour shifts and earned $3.50 a day. He briefly went back to school when his family moved to Port Clinton. He attended school in Lacarne until his family returned to Texas. He didn’t go back to school until his accident gave him the free time to pursue his longtime dream.

“My dad always worked constantly and did side jobs,” said his daughter, Margi Titta. “He always made sure his kids were taken care of.”

When Rocky Cuevas learned to walk again with the robotic assistance of the EKSO Indego Therapy system, which he is wearing here. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Cuevas enrolled in Sandusky Digital Academy, where he took classes to earn his diploma. At the same time, he attended physical therapy appointments at ProMedica Total Rehab in Toledo.

“He went to school on the days he wasn’t in therapy,” Margi said.

At ProMedica, Cuevas was fitted with a EKSO Indego Therapy system, a bionic exoskeleton device that offers robotic walking assistance. Margi’s husband, Tim Titta, underwent 30 hours of instruction to become a certified Indego trainer. Without Tim’s willingness to earn the certification, Cuevas would not have been allowed to utilize the equipment at home.

“One of the things I’m grateful for is, I have a son-in-law who became my 24-hour nurse. Everything I need, he’s right there,” Cuevas said.

For Tim, the decision to help his father-in-law came easily.

“Why would I do this? Because Dad is my dad,” he said. “You have to take care of family, and he’s always taken care of us.”

Now, Cuevas has the freedom to live life fully.

On May 10, Rocky Cuevas, a paraplegic, walked across the Port Clinton High School stage to receive his high school diploma. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“He cooks. He cleans. He does laundry. He does everything,” Margi said.

But first, he walked in church. On March 3, almost exactly two years after his accident, Cuevas walked into Immaculate Conception Church. It was his first public walk since becoming a paraplegic.

“Dad said the first place he wanted to walk was in church, and it was,” Margi said.

His first goal was met.

“It was a wonderful feeling,” Cuevas said. “I stunned a lot of people. They had just seen me in a wheelchair.”

On May 10, Cuevas reached another milestone when he received his Port Clinton High School diploma during the school’s annual Honors Assembly. At age 83, he walked across the school stage to become a high school graduate. Cuevas became emotional when he recalled the moment. He had finally reached his longtime dream of becoming a high school graduate, and the entire study body celebrated with him.

“It was an amazing thing. All the students gave me a standing ovation,” he said.

Cuevas turned a tragedy into inspiration. It’s kind of his thing.

“Dad taught us all faith,” Margi said. “He always taught us to take the bad and turn it into good.”

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2 Comments

  1. Del

    What an amazing story and a true inspiration.

    Reply
  2. Scott Gresser

    Congratulations Rocky. So very well deserved.

    Reply

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