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Montana boy learning to walk again after devastating accident

Tanner Waldner
Posted at 10:39 AM, Apr 03, 2022

FORT BENTON — Walking is something not many people think of a lot - but it's been on the mind of Tanner Waldner for the last two years, after being involved in a crash that left him paralyzed. He spent weeks in hospitals in Great Falls and Seattle, having to hear news no one wants to hear.

“Well, I remember when I was driving home, and I went into the house. And I went on the bench to sit, knew there was something going on because my feet started giving up. They said after I woke up, my feet don’t have any feeling,” Tanner recalled.

Several doctors told the Waldner family he’d never walk again - but the family didn’t accept no for an answer and kept looking for solutions.

They met Gerry Cook, who helped develop equipment with NASA, and now, some of that equipment is being used in Fort Benton. Cook is originally from Fort Benton and helped get it to the hospital where they hope to help other people in similar situations.

Since learning about the "moonwalker" technology, 11-year old Tanner has shown nothing but dedication and hard work, getting his strength back at home and through physical therapy.

His doctors and family are all astonished at what he’s been able to do since he started therapy.

“We’ve been working on this for over 35 years. We’re in Sandpoint, Idaho, now, and they came to us, and Tanner’s come such a long way,” Cook said. “He took five steps the first time he got on it. It was incredible.”

Gage Grossman is Tanner’s physical therapist at Missouri River Medical Center in Fort Benton and is impressed with what Tanner has been able to accomplish.

“Tanner’s got a great attitude. He’s always got a smile, always happy,” Grossman said. “Really anything below his ribcage shouldn’t work yet he sits on his own. He can crawl, he’s learning to walk. He’s coming a long way when no one expected him to. I think it’s pretty incredible.”

Tanner has a long way to go but he’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“I told my mom that I’m never going to sit down. I’m never going to sit down once I’m going to be walking again,” Tanner said.