Help me WALK again.
After enjoying a night out with friends in Philadelphia , Christmas week 2011, I hailed a taxi to go home. That was my last recollection before suffering an attack where I was left for dead in a city alley. Many facts are unknown but investigators determined that I was most likely struck across the back with a heavy, blunt piece of metal three different times blindly from behind, causing various injuries to my body and spinal cord. Soon after I was found on train tracks with further severe injuries from the fall and damage from the train hitting me. The police investigated but were unable to find the attacker(s) or any other information as to the accident.
Everyone always hears of tragic accidents but no one ever expects they will be the victim. The reality that I was a victim became known to me as I drifted in and out of consciousness in the trauma unit with doctors over my body , tubes and wires, and a priest at my side. It did not become clear what had happened until the priest spoke with me, and I realized I could not move anything below shoulders from paralysis. Emergency surgery awaited me as I was facing the rest of my life in a wheelchair with a 10% chance of recovery to walk. I knew this would be the greatest fight of my life.
I spent 6 grueling months in Trauma, ICU, step-down units, and at a rehabilitation hospital - filled with struggle, frustration, anger, support, love, and the thought of never walking again. I was released home and it is then that I realized that without the help of full time nurses and doctors at my side my real fight would begin. My first weekend home was both sweet and bitter, I knew it was going to be incredibly tough and take every ounce of my mental, physical and spiritual strength to get through this injury. But I would beat it.
These physical, psychological, and emotional elements in and of themselves are daunting, scary, and overwhelming; but they are only part of the battle. The other critical part is the cost of care to treat my injury and recovery. The hospital and rehabilitation costs were just the beginning of a long, arduous process of dealing with insurance to cover and continue to pay for therapy that is essential to my walking again. It is estimated that the cost of the first year's care to treat a Quad spinal injury at one million dollars, $1,000,000. Subsequent years can cost on average $175,000.
Five days a week I am in Physical Therapy, both at an out-patient facility and home. My schedule is relentlessly tough and I give no breaks to myself no matter how much pain I am in or how easy it is to skip my exercises, weights, standing frame, stimulation bike, stretching, or other treatments. Now, 28 months since my injury, 21 months into therapy, I am able to move both my legs on my own (right stronger at present - but left will catch up), proving to myself and to the amazement of doctors that a full recovery is possible with the right support, love, and hard work. To date I have worked relentlessly to recover 75% of what the accident took away.
Until now I have relied on insurance and immediate family for help. I have hit many of the maximum limits with insurance. The personal funds I had available to pay these costs have been depleted. I am humbly asking for your generous donation to help with medical and related expenses such as: continued medical treatment, aqua rehab, exercise equipment, home healthcare, and hospital and doctors fees. Your donation, no matter how big or small, will be greatly appreciated to defray these costs. My goal is to raise $40,000, biggest components are a stimulation bike which costs $16,800, and to pay for further Locomotor Training (see video w treadmill) sessions which cost $400/hour 3 times a week.
Today I am a changed man physically, mentally and spiritually. This accident has been the greatest gift in disguise, replete with lessons on life that forever have made me a better person. With your help I also will become a changed man. With your donations, my guts and determination, the support and love of family and friends, and through prayer, I will walk again.
Each week I will provide update(s) on my recovery and what changes have occurred as a result of your donations - until I post a picture of myself completing a 5K race. Thank you!!!
VIDEOS of my recovery:
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All donations are tax deductible.
This summer was a bit rough on me, but more so mentally and psychologically. Not that it is ever easy on any front but some months the pendulum swings and a new area is the target of change, some months are surely tougher than others. Most the heart of summer was spent dealing with bowel and bladder issues – which play on your psychology when attempting to go out, anywhere, for anything: even a trip to the curb for trash can build apprehension and anxiety due to the unknown. That is all part of the psychology of recovery, and a planned second book. Recently I have been considering the possibility of going back to school to further my studies (proper) in this area – with the thought of developing programs later to help others recover.
Each month however I continue to heal and recover. As my lower abdominal and back areas start to come into full swing recovery mode it is creating both gifts and nightmares all at once. Imagine leaning down to pick up a knife from a hard table and your muscles suddenly give out with no notice – yes, is it not fun. And yes, similar things have happened to me. I have never been known to be one to push the envelope, so why now. Hell, I do every day – and feel it an important part of healing wholly. The other day I was pumping up my tires while sitting with no backrest, which requires all lower core muscles. After five minutes of pumping I could already feel my back destroyed, as if someone had hit it multiple times with a baseball bat. So then I decided to stand a little, always a smart choice, in my book. My legs were yet another level stronger, and once again felt ever different, a lighter aluminum affect, more agile. Fifteen minutes later when leaning to pick up a cup of hot tea my tired lower core muscles went out – luckily enough I am quick and broke the head shot to the granite table with a hand.
What does all this mean in real life terms, other than saving my coconut from cracking open this week? It means: my lower muscles have now unlocked after five years and need to be built back up, similar to how I could not hold up my head after twelve weeks with a special brace, as my muscles were atrophied; I can lean over while sitting, in my chair, or even on my shower chair, in ways I could not just weeks ago, thus as if discovering something new in the world for the first time, and making life easier; can roll up ramps faster; balance in my chair better, and while sitting down; makes cooking easier in the kitchen and hot items from the stove less of a possible burn threat due to a careless fumble; I can carry heavier items; able to lean forward to remove my shirt with two hands; basically: it makes my life a whole lot easier, and a whole lot happier. I am healing, I am thankful.
My legs have improved again, and will continue to in the coming months until I start learning to take steps again, and soon thereafter use a walker. For the first time in almost five years I no longer feel like the wheelchair is going to be my primary means of transportation. Something deep inside one day switched and suddenly that thought came into my mind, and has never left since, nor will it. That is the power of having an amazing relationship with one’s body, it speaks to you; hence why my predictions always bear fruit. And also why I know I am soon to stand full time and start walking – all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. Those pieces cannot come together without the love and support of those who have made donations, whispered prayers, sent words of positive encouragement, or helped in various other ways. In the coming weeks and months therapy will greatly increase, as will the costs. My plan is still to be vertical in the coming months. Thank you for your continued love and support. I am healing, I am thankful. Have an awesome October, and Happy Halloween. Thank you, Steven
This summer has been tough – as if any parts of this recovery have been easy. It is an amazing experience to be living in your own body as it heals inside out. It also brings great pains and discomfort. The focus the last two months has mainly been bowel and bladder (bnb) nerve related. That is the center of all nerves in your body, where they all come together: sacrum; and needed to fully recover. So, even though amazingly uncomfortable and most days outright painful, through it all, I smiled as I knew what it meant below the surface – all the links were starting to come together in the sacral region of my spine. Those links being intertwined (bowel, bladder, sexual function, feet, toes), and required to walk. So on a night out to a baseball game or a movie with friends can turn into a very uncomfortable situation – since you are unsure if your toe itches, leg is twitching, need to pee, need to other, or just the muscle saying hello. Then try camping alone for six months and you get an idea of the work I am doing to recover wholly.
I continue to do ‘my work’ in life and my recovery continues also. A coincidence? I do not think so. And hopefully in book two I and a co-author will further explore the psychology behind recovery from traumatic injury. Funny as I have always been anti academia but somehow feel turning it into a PhD may be a path to help others further. As it is written, it shall be – time will tell. It is all a collective part of doing ‘your work’ in life. The body is such an amazing creation, truly a wonder of higher intelligence. As is life, when you dig deep within you find answers. It is dirty, tough, emotional work – but it is what is required to grow in love, emotionally, spiritually, other. At some point we all reap what we sow. So today I am smiling big – much needed after the last few months of hard work – a time of confusion and introspection, inner growth. The body and mind are intertwined in every aspect, healing, no exception.
Which all leads me up to why I am smiling so BIG. As those who know me will attest I am not one to celebrate the small wins. I am the Northern Type A overachiever who has laser focus on my goal and forgets the small wins that propelled me enough up the mountain over time to attempt to summit. I am working on that, and living more in the present. I have not stood with my stander for about three months, nor have I used any other standing devices the last three months, my legs were telling me not interested. So I chose to ramp up other methods, including vast mental visualization exercises. I knew there were changes in the works and so I waited. Today my legs wanted to stand, so I did, and they were twice as strong as before, lighter yet muscularly stronger with more tenacity, increased volitional control over my quad muscles (currently the missing piece to the full time standing equation – soon to be solved). It felt great, I had a huge smile on my face. Then I went to sit back down on my chair, missed, and ended up on the floor. I laughed, popped right back up with stronger legs than ever, not hitting my seat cushion on the way up, and grinned from ear to ear. I am healing, I am thankful.
I would expect even bigger news in the coming weeks. My lower back and abdominal areas are in the middle of a transition too. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I continue to do my part, continue to show up at life. That work is not possible without the love and care and support of others. Not a day goes by that I am not aware of that or incredibly thankful. There are no mistakes in life, my friends. I am where I need to be today. Thank you for helping me on my journey – you all deserve to smile too. And one day shall smile even bigger when you read I have started walking. Thank you for your continued love and support. Steven
It has been an interesting summer, one of confusion, pain, more pain, discomfort, more discomfort, deep reflection, change. As I often speak of the puzzle pieces and assembling them weekly, I was thrown for another big loop. All the prior trends I had identified had been thrown into disarray, no longer a guide for what was happening, and most likely here on I’d be using other tools to guide my recovery. My legs were showing old tendencies, my core was not progressing, my thighs seemed to be on vacation – was I going in reverse, I thought as one point a possibility. So I looked within, spent much time on mental exercise, visualization, energy healing, meditation, and inner change that was lining up on the list for recovery. And so it is now clearly showing signs of fruit soon to bear. I am thankful.
What signs do I speak of? Well, I can now feel the connections in my legs at a whole new level – one that makes them feel almost complete, if that makes sense. The connections from my thighs, lower body, to my core, upper body, are being made again in a big way. My bnb have improved as well, and continue on a road to full recovery. I can also feel new muscles and parts of my lower back and abdominal areas activating again. All of which portends to future big progress in connecting the lower and upper body – also the key to standing, walking. It is all coming together, just in a different order and time line than previously thought. That is fine. I am thankful.
What does all this mean to me now? Well, for example, in the shower yesterday, for the first time, I was able to reach down and wash my lower leg and toes without leaning – again foretelling of things to come. Having my lower back and abdominal areas coming back online mean so, so much to everyday life, how we lean and where we stretch – all lower back and abdominal areas. So I am now putting on my socks forward, while sitting down, as opposed to lying back on the bed. In the mornings it is now easier to wash my face with soap and water with two hands – try not using two, or severely limiting you can even wash it, then one can see the meaningfulness of appreciating the smaller, mundane things in everyday life, and beauty in the minute. It is a bit easier now to meditate (hold the pose) and also transferring from the chair or couch is easier as my legs are starting to do most of the work, as opposed to hands and wrists. I am thankful.
The little things do make a difference, not only in life, my recovery, but in all our lives. Each week I receive emails, letters, and phone calls regarding my injury, recovery, how inspired they or someone they know is, how my words or letters to some have changes their lives, questions on therapy, advice on life or career, just to name a few. I want you to know that they each mean so much to me, as do your donations, prayers, positive words of encouragement and love all fill my tank and give me the means and mental energy to continue to fight this injury. I will fulfill my purpose. It is a journey that includes many as part of it. I look forward to great things in the future. Thank you for being a part of my amazing journey. I hope you all enjoy the end of your summer (or winters for some), healthily, happily, safely. Steven
Just over one month ago just as summer was getting under way I came to a crossroads of confusion. As I often speak of the puzzle called my body healing, and how it changes monthly, constantly in need of being solved. But this time I was unsure where I stood – my legs seemed to have hit a wall in their progress, and my mid-section seemed unchanged, whereas I would have expected further recovery in both. So I decided to take two steps back, adjust my approach to recovery – focusing more on the mental and spiritual aspects of recovery, and re-assess the original plan.
After one month of letting my physical body rest (mostly), rather focusing more on mental exercises, visualization(s), other mental activities, and looking deeper within at my spiritual healing, I can report that both my legs and core are better. My legs have had major increased activity in nerve highway running (bigger ones), activation of muscles has increased in frequency, especially the quad muscles, and they each actually feel stronger. My bnb have made huge strides also. On some wheelchair transfers, when combined with legs, I overshoot and end up high in the air (think Newton), or over the chair on my bum on the floor. When I hit the floor, I laugh. Sitting up straighter in the shower makes me feel appreciation for eighteen years of Catholic school. Wooden ruler welts and all, I am thankful.
It must be noted, and will be well covered in a future publication, the relationship between the physical, mental, and psychological elements when one attempts to heal. The mind body connection is irrefutable. The studies on non physical activities are heavily weighted on the affects being the same to the body as if you had actually performed the physical exercise, with all the same benefits, including vitals. I mostly look at healing as a whole process, all sides inclusive. I am unsure on what allows some injured to make miraculous recoveries, while others make no progress at all. What is the key? I am unclear if I will identify through any Eureka moments, but would hope at minimum to draw some links to help others in the future. I decided to adjust my focus, and it is paying dividends. I am healing, I am thankful.
As a result of the injury I have become a changed person, a new man of most sorts. Of course life is a journey and we all have our crosses to bear, but we must learn how to smile through that process. As a result of my work we hope to be able to help others heal from traumatic injuries in the future. I am unable to do any of what I do daily without the support and love of others. Thank you for your continued support. Steven
Steven, you are so in my prayers and I am routing for you every time I read one of your updates, I am reminded of how powerful the human spirit is. How self-healing the body can be if we dedicate ourselves to it. Keep going! Sending you all my love.
Hi Steven, Sorry to learn of this. I wrote you a while ago on Facebook. Let me know if you'd like a visitor. Sincerely, Kelly
Bare feet in the grass activates different areas
Steven, I had no idea of your struggles. Stay strong. A healthy mind can compensate for any physical shortcomings. God bless buddy, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Merry Christmas buddy. Mark
With god all things are possible.
You will walk again and dance the night away once more :) ox you remain in my prayers!!!
YOu have are support & Prayers Cuz.. we love you