CHICAGO(CBS) — Staff moved patients from the former Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago into the brand new Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Streeterville today.

WBBM’s Michele Fiore reports.

Hospital CEO Dr. Joanne Smith said the new 1.2 million square foot building is one of a kind, with a staff of full-time researchers that work around the clock.

“Patients will have access to the latest technologies, the latest devices, the latest research, clinical trials, all sorts of access,” she said.

Chelsea Joy was one of the first patients moved. She fell backwards off a couch in her home Dec. 18 while caring for her dog. She broke her neck and severed her spinal cord. She checked into the Rehabilitation Center right after Christmas.

“I’m now able to open tops that I couldn’t open before, I can turn a key,” she said.

Cole Thomas watched escorts drive patients in wheelchairs to the new lab. He held a poster about his recovery.

“This is the fourth day I’ve gone without my wheelchair. I just started that this week,” he said.

Thomas tried to avoid a deer while driving his truck, causing his vehicle to roll three times. He said his wife and daughter Riley motivated him to fight to walk again. Riley said she’s happy with her father’s progress.

“My daddy can walk me down the aisle of my wedding,” she said.

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the first “translational” research hospital where clinicians, innovators, scientists and technologists will work together in the same space. It is the largest freestanding rehabilitation hospital in America.