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A Will to Walk

| Source: journalonline.com

Accident victim determined not to spend life in wheelchair

ORANGE CITY — While some people stroll through life with ease, Joshuah Roy shuffles along inches at a time.

Each step is a battle, but one this Orange City man plans on winning. He’s determined not to spend the rest of his life looking at the world from a wheelchair.

“It may not be pretty, but I will walk,” he said.

The 20-year-old was paralyzed from the waist down in a single-car accident 10 months ago. Roy was headed home on U.S. 17-92 in the early morning hours of Jan. 26 when he fell asleep at the wheel of his pickup. It rolled three times. He was ejected out the window and left bleeding on the roadway.

“I broke all my ribs, my sternum, back and a bone in my neck,” he recalled.

Doctors said he would never walk again, despite some sensation in his legs. Roy, the eldest of three siblings, dedicated himself to proving them wrong.

“Now I can walk into (the doctors’) offices and tell them, ‘I told you so,’ ” he said with a grin.

It wasn’t easy.

From the moment he met his first Physical Therapist — “I asked her if she was the person who was going to make me walk” — Roy has spent hundreds of hours working toward his goal. Building up his strength through weightlifting. Enduring pain and muscle spasms. And retraining his damaged body to perform in ways able-bodied persons take for granted.

“My first thought was this is going to be harder than I thought,” Roy said.

That was proven to him Oct. 18, the first time he hoisted his tall, thin frame upright and swung his steel-brace-encased leg forward. He described that step as “one of the best moments of my life.”

And not only for him.

“It makes me feel like he is taking his first steps for a second time,” said his father, Kevin Roy. “You can’t put a price on that.”

Coming on the heels of seeing his son in the emergency room that terrible January morning, it’s even more special.

“I did not think Josh would come home,” he said. “I think God saved him for a reason.”

He is convinced that was to inspire friends, family and the community, all of whom have responded in ways the Roys never expected.

“This whole room was donated,” the elder Roy said of the converted garage that is his son’s new home.

The younger Roy’s determination has impacted those around him.

“What Josh has gone through has had a dramatic effect on my life,” said his best friend, Daniel Wallace. “He has put things in perspective for me and shown me how fickle life can be.”

Even when it is brought on by yourself, as Josh Roy admits.

The night of the accident, the 20-year-old had been drinking and described himself as being “intoxicated” when he drove his truck toward home.

“I have no one to blame but myself,” he said.

Josh Roy does not dwell on his mistakes. Instead, he has to thank those who are helping him by providing an example of what is possible with hard work.

“I wanted to become a physical therapist because you can make people walk,” said Josh’s current therapist, Tera Barzak of the Orlando Health Rehabilitation Institute, where he is an outpatient. “For him to prove this is a realistic goal sets a good foundation for me.”

Barzak said Josh Roy has improved surprisingly fast, which she credits in no small part to his positive attitude.

“He is never down,” said the woman Roy calls his physical “terrorist.”

But not everyone is as lucky.

Bob Melia, spinal cord network coordinator for the rehabilitation center’s umbrella organization, Orlando Health, and a quadriplegic himself, said every spinal cord injury is unique. If the potential isn’t there for rehabilitation, no amount of work will help. But changes in the treatment of spinal cord injuries during the last couple of decades have opened new opportunities for less loss of function. Still, even if there is the chance, it takes effort to make it a reality.

“It is a 50-50 proposition,” Barzak said. “Without that, this would not be possible.”

While Josh Roy takes things day by day, that doesn’t mean he has given up his goals or aspirations.

He would still like to attend college to become a landscape architect, his mother said, and wants to be the first Paraplegic driver in the local “Trucks Gone Wild” mud run series. He’s already installed hand controls in the customized “mud truck” he is building with his brother, Dillon.

Josh Roy knows he has a long road to travel and there will be bumps along the way, but with the support of his family and friends he believes he’ll reach the end.

“This may be the hardest thing I will ever do,” he said, “but I have never thought it is not worth it.”

By MARK I. JOHNSON
Staff Writer – news-journalonline.com

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