LOUISVILLE, Ky. —Two men who were told they’d never walk again are defying odds with help from Frazier Rehab.
Frazier Rehab is making their mobility possible through its research and special equipment and many institutes are following suit.
Both of the men were in serious car accidents that left them with fractured spinal cords.
One man lost feeling from the chest down.
But now, not only does he have sensation back — he’s also regained his independence.
A year ago, 18-year-old Collin Humphrey couldn’t move a finger or toe.
Now, he’s not only standing, he’s walking for Bill Scheller.
“They told me I would probably not walk ever again,” Scheller said.
Both were injured in car accidents last year — their spines, fractured.
It was a nightmare, turned reality for Collin Humphrey’s mother, Jennifer Humphrey, whose heart broke as she watched her son struggle.
“You can imagine going from an active high-schooler, driving, girlfriends, working, wrestling to being in the hospital and not being able to move,” Jennifer Humphrey said.
“To be honest with you, I had thoughts about rather being dead than having to lay in a bed,” Scheller said.
Five days a week, they walk at Frazier Rehab with the help of what’s called Bodyweight Supported Treadmill training — or locomotor training.
The way it works, a harness supports the patient over a treadmill and therapists get the feet moving, until they’re ready to move on their own.
“We believe that the cord has memory, the spinal cord has memory and what we are trying to do is re-pattern that stepping process,” said Dr. Steve Williams.
Not everyone will regain full mobility, but doctors said the treatment is still important.
It helps blood flow, reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
“If you can improve someone’s ability to move and they have more mobility then they have less risk of developing a pressure ulcer or a bed sore,” said Williams.
The process is expensive. It’s about $60,000 for 12-16 weeks of treadmill training, and insurance doesn’t typically cover it all.
“You can’t ask a person to relearn how to walk, feed themselves in 20 visits, everything you’ve learned your whole life. they are saying, ‘Good luck’ in 30 visits,” Jennifer Humphrey said.
Every time Collin Humphrey’s sessions expire, he has to apply for more, showing his insurance he’s making progress.
Frazier Rehab is gathering financial data to get insurance companies on board so patients can keep moving.
“I’m not going to be perfect when I complete my therapy in a few months, but I’m going to be able to do the things I want to do in my retirement,” said Scheller.
As for Collin Humphrey, this year he went to prom and graduated high school.
“He is now working on driving, which he is extremely excited about,” said Jennifer Humphrey.
The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation is raising money to make treadmill training and handicap accessible gym’s like the one at Frazier affordable for patients through scholarships.
This Saturday and Sunday, anyone who wants help make that happen through the Walk to Victory Over Paralysis.
People with spinal cord injuries and their friends and family will be walking non-stop on treadmills at Frazier Rehab to raise money.
Click here for more information.
By Erica Coghill