Coachbuilder using racing video games to regain motor skills

Tony Markovich

In a feature from Fox 6 News in Milwaukee, Bob Bennett of Bennett Coachworks joked that he is going to get a Mobil 1 tattoo on his arm. Not because he's a die-hard fan of burning fossil fuels and revving engines, but rather because his body is literally functioning on a synthetically produced liquid. Bennett has been injected with synthetic plasma multiple times since he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system. Bennett has suffered from various level of paralysis as a result, but he's using his love of cars to recover.

As a lifelong hot-rodder, Bennett needs his hands, feet, arms, legs and every other body part to work on cars at his Milwaukee-based customization shop. But that livelihood has recently been threatened. In September, 2019, Bennett woke up one night to a paralyzed lower body. Doctors determined he had Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects about one in 100,000 people per year, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The exact cause is still unknown. 

A cure for the syndrome is also unknown, but several types of therapies and treatments can reduce the symptoms. In addition to several weeks of physical therapy, Bennett received at least seven plasma transplants, in which the real plasma is siphoned out and replaced with synthetic. Once he regained some of his functionality, the doctor implemented his love of cars into his training. To help improve movement in his feet, he was told to practice hitting the pedals like he was competing in a track race. And to loosen up his hands, Bennett has been playing Forza on his XBox.

Bennett's hard recovery work has allowed him to regain some of his movement, but much of his time is still spent in a wheelchair. That didn't prevent him from organizing his company's large display at the recent Milwaukee Auto Show. For more on Bennett and his story watch the video above, and for more information on his shop, visit HotRodBuilders.com.