Today, we’ve put together a collection of inspiring spinal cord injury recovery stories to motivate you on your journey to recovery!
Keep in mind that every spinal cord injury is different, so you may not experience the same results.
Regardless, it’s helpful understanding that there’s always hope for recovery if you’re willing to put in the work.
Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Stories: Succeeding Against All Odds
Reading other people’s recovery stories will help you understand that you’re not alone and that there are others who understand exactly what you’re going through.
Without any further ado, let’s get into the spinal cord injury recovery stories!
1. Meet Daquan
Daquan’s T6 incomplete spinal cord injury was caused by a car accident.
The car flipped 5 times which resulted in paralysis starting from the middle of his trunk to his toes.
After 3 weeks in intensive care, he began rehabilitation.
Daquan explains, “Nobody was telling me I was going to walk again, but nobody was telling me I wouldn’t, and that’s what kept me going.”
Even with no feeling in his trunk and lower body, he was able to walk short distances by being extra dependent on his eyes and focusing on his steps.
His doctor compares the amount of concentration required for Daquan to move to be “the kind of concentration required to walk a tight rope.”
Daquan learned to adapt and reteach himself how to walk despite his lack of sensation.
He even walked across the stage at his graduation to receive his diploma, just like all his classmates.
2. Meet Michelle
In 2011, Michelle fell 5 stories from her dorm and shattered her L2 vertebra.
Before her accident, she was a pre-med student and Division 1 swimmer. The last thing she expected was to spend the rest of her semester in a hospital bed.
After 3 surgeries, months of healing, and 5 weeks of intensive rehab, Michelle was able to walk again with permanent weakness.
Then, she was introduced to Para Swimming and just one month after, Michelle was competing in trials for the 2012 Paralympic Games. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it.
Two years later, she decided to try again and in her first competition back, made the national team.
She chose to defer med school to follow her dreams at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
During her training, she learned that recovery is just as important as the workout, and “for every 3 hours of training, she’d spend two hours recovering, focusing on the quality of the work rather than the quantity.”
Michelle ended up winning 4 medals: 2 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze.
One year later, she started med school. She explains, “after spending so much time in hospitals after I got hurt, I saw how amazing medicine was.”
Before her spinal cord injury, Michelle was an aspiring doctor and competitive swimmer.
After her injury, she became a doctor and 4-time Paralympic medal winner.
3. Meet Hayden
Hayden got his spinal cord injury getting tackled during a football game.
He was immediately paralyzed from the shoulders down with a C4 spinal cord injury.
After an all-night surgery, Hayden’s spinal cord was stabilized.
“Only about 5% of patients in his situation when we saw him walk again,” says his surgeon.
After intensive rehabilitation, Hayden was able to gradually transition from a power wheelchair to a manual wheelchair to a walker to crutches to being able to walk without assistance!
Nearly three and a half months after his SCI, Hayden walked his way up the stairs and out of rehabilitation.
Hayden’s story is truly a testament to what it means to keep going even when the odds are against you.
4. Meet Lee
He was in the ICU for 3 weeks and explains how vulnerable he felt being completely paralyzed.
He couldn’t talk, move, or breathe on his own and needed a ventilator. At one point, he even developed ICU psychosis and believed that the doctors and nurses were trying to kill him.
As he continued rehabilitation, Lee was able to use a power wheelchair, have bowel movements on his own, get his trach tube removed, and have his feeding tube removed.
He used a standing machine and a weight-bearing treadmill that gradually increased pressure on his legs as they got stronger.
Lee can now stand and walk on his own with no assistance.
When asked to share something with people who’ve recently incurred spinal cord injuries, Lee replied:
“If you are just starting your rehabilitation—then I can almost guarantee you things are going to get better […] If it doesn’t get better or doesn’t get easier – then you need to do something about it. Find a support group. Surround yourself with supportive – positive – funny – people. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help […] You can do this!”
The Right Mindset for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
As you’ve just seen, anyone can get a spinal cord injury regardless of age, race, class, or gender.
Surround yourself with loved ones who want to help you succeed. We highly recommend that you connect with people who are also on the journey to SCI recovery by joining a spinal cord injury support group.
A common element in all these recovery stories is the determination to work for hours multiple times a week and keep going no matter what.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes, the doctor isn’t always right. Hearing that you won’t ever walk again will only stop you before you even try.
So much about spinal cord injury is still not yet understood, which means that so much about its recovery is also unknown. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Not everyone will recover as much as they’d like to physically. Peace of mind should also be highly prioritized.
Document your recovery process through pictures, videos, or blog posts. This will remind you how far you’ve come and will allow you to inspire others with your own SCI recovery story!
For more success stories, check out this collection of SCI recovery stories from our partners at United Spinal.