ROCHESTER, Minn. – With the help of a nurse and a Physical Therapist, Luke Green got up from his wheelchair and gradually walked down a hallway.
It was Luke’s second time walking that day, his mother, Kathy Green said while watching him take careful steps at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester.
Luke, an Austin High School senior, said he has to focus now on how his feet land as he walks to avoid rolling his ankles.
“He’s doing excellent,” Kathy Green said.
Luke is receiving therapy for a severe spinal-cord injury he suffered during a Feb. 7 hockey game in New Ulm. He crashed headfirst into the boards after a collision with an opponent.
Green immediately lost movement from his arms down except for slight motion in a few toes.
His spinal cord didn’t break, but swelling is the problem.
Everybody recovers differently from such an injury, Kathy Green said, calling it “a wait-and-see” process.
Green likely will stay at Saint Marys until June or August because he is responding well to therapy, his mother said. “They see a lot of promise in what’s happening,” she said.
Luke, 17, took his first steps on his way to walking again shortly before traveling to Austin to make a surprise appearance in a wheelchair at the high school’s Mr. Austin Pageant on March 14.
“It didn’t really feel like walking at the time because I couldn’t exactly feel what was under my foot,” he said of his initial steps.
On weekdays, Green has physical and Occupational Therapy in the morning and then again in the afternoon when he feels well enough. He has one session of each therapy for the whole weekend.
Luke said he regained sensation throughout his whole body about three weeks ago, but the touch isn’t the same everywhere, such as for hot or cold.
Luke’s leg muscles aren’t strong, he said, but they can withstand gravity.
“I have a lot of control over it,” he said, adding he has to focus a lot on balancing the trunk of his body.
Last week, Luke walked around a nearly 420-foot loop in the hospital.
“They usually don’t like to do that because my endurance is too low,” he said. “So the next day I just kind of sat there in pain.”
He’s also working a lot now on the dexterity of his hands and being able to do more things on his own.
A few times a week Luke has recreational therapy, which usually includes a weekly activity outside Saint Marys.
He can leave the hospital whenever he wants with his family. His first trip out was to a steakhouse, and he has gone to the movies twice with his girlfriend.
Luke said he has a general fear about whether he’ll be fully independent again someday and how he’ll manage the real world.
“I think for the most part, I’ll be all right with it,” he said. “You just got to get used to it, just like everything else.”
Luke, who turns 18 in May, is working on the classes he needs for graduation and he’s planning to be at the June 3 ceremony.
“That’s not even a question,” he said.