Paralyzed Delray Beach man working make his wheelchair history
by Dale M. King
At the youthful age of 25, Kevin Mullin of Delray Beach knows how quickly life’s plan can change.
About a year ago, fresh out of college, the strapping and athletic Mullin was about to launch a career as a headhunter.
On Oct. 6, 2003, he, his sister and niece were swimming off Spanish River Park in Boca Raton. “We were coming back in, and I was chest-high in the water when a wave caught me from behind.” Mullin went over headfirst, hitting against a sandbar or floating object. He suffered a spinal cord injury that actually took his life.
“I passed away,” he said. “I was out for five minutes. But I was revived. And in an amazing feat, I somehow suffered no brain damage. I was very lucky.”
But the accident has left him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the mid-chest down.
In a moment, the man who loved to swim and SCUBA dive found himself in a situation similar to another person known for his athletic prowess and love of the active life – Christopher Reeve.
“I know it was selfish of me, but when you’re not in a situation like that, you don’t follow it,” said Mullin. “But after my accident, I studied and researched what Christopher Reeve did. A lot of it brought tears to my eyes. I was Ventilator-dependent for two months while I was in the hospital. But my body kicked back in. To be ventilator-dependent for nine years – I don’t know how he did it.”
Mullin acknowledged that Reeve was a crusader for the cause of those with spinal cord injuries – and offered hope to many who couldn’t see beyond their immediate tragedy. The wheelchair-ridden Delray Beach man has two goals in life – to walk again, perhaps within two years – and to take that message of hope to the spinal cord disabled in Florida, the nation and the world.
“I don’t know if any man can fill Christopher Reeve’s shoes or match his efforts,” he said. “I want to show people that there is something out there.”
Mullin said he gets his inspiration from his family – mother Ann Marie Mullin, sister Tracy Sempowich, who was with him at the time of the accident, his brother, Thomas Mullin, and best friends Thomas Dolan and Seamus Limato.
Actually, Dolan and Limato helped their injured friend find a program that has given him hope and strength for recovery.
While surfing the Internet, Dolan found the Sit Tall, Stand Tall program in Provo, Utah. Founded 21 years ago by Leighton Weber, it offers a rigorous program to put the disabled back on their feet.
After recovering from his swimming accident at Delray Medical Center and at a Rehabilitation center, Mullin and his friends went to Provo to see if he could qualify.
In just the seven days he was evaluated, Mullin said he felt improvements in muscle strength. Months later, he has much more strength in his shoulders and wrists and is working to restore fine muscle control in his fingers.
He swears by the program and its tough workout requirements. He’s literally betting his future on it, saying he will be out of his wheelchair in two years.
Sit Tall Stand Tall focuses on two areas, Mullin said, applied strength techniques and muscle memory. “Every muscle has a memory. You have to teach them to regain this memory.”
The paralyzed Delray man says attitude can be as important as physical exercise. Like Reeve, he said that soon after the accident he too questioned whether he could go on. But his friends and family wouldn’t let him give up.
“We keep him going as much as we can,” said Dolan. “When the accident happened, we were upset. But then you put that aside and move on.”
Dolan and Mullin are longtime friends, having met 15 years ago in Long Island. And they are also roommates. Limato met them five years ago in Florida, though he is also a New Yorker, from Yonkers.
All share a common interest in computer work. Mullin’s buddies have set up a Web site to offer information on his progress. The site is: www.kevinjmullin.com
Mullin has vowed to bring basics of the Sit Tall Stand Tall program to Florida. Once he is back on his feet, he wants to take it around the nation. “I want to share it with others, I want to be in a leadership position, I want to lead by example.”
Limato said the friends have been trying to contact national TV shows, but “we haven’t been able to get through. It’s like a wall.”
Mullin is philosophical about his future. “God put me in this situation for a reason, to show people there is hope. Christopher Reeve did it for so many people for so many years. Now that he has passed on, someone has to step up.”