MINER – Terry Cole has no self pity. Although he is disabled and uses a wheelchair, he doesn’t allow these circumstances to slow him down in any way.
“You can’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself,” Cole said. In fact, he advises others with aches, pains and disabilities to “quit whining.”
An active member in the Sikeston-Miner community, Cole aspires to overcome his paralysis if possible, using whatever techniques may work.
Cole knows that hard work and determination are key. “Even if I don’t walk, little by little, I will regain feeling,” he said.
Injured in 1975, the then 19-year-old flipped his truck just east of the Interstate 55 overpass near Benton.
“I broke my neck at the C5/6 level,” Cole said. He explained that the ‘C’ level is the highest level of spinal cord injuries possible.
Cole’s injury was incomplete, implying he would be able to regain some of his feeling. “I was lucky,” he said.
For 17 months, Cole was in and out of the Baptist Hospital in Memphis. “I started to regain some feeling from the shoulders down, and could wiggle my toes” he said.
“When I got back, I helped my Dad on the farm for awhile,” Cole said. He ran parts and did other chores. For 12 years, he ran the Sikeston License Bureau. Then he and his wife, Cindy, began Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders Program in Sikeston. They currently run SATOP and Cole Insurance.
A few years ago, Cole read a newspaper article about Dr. John McDonald of Washington University in St. Louis.
McDonald, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Surgery, as well as director of the Spinal Cord Injury program at Barnes – Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, is known as the man behind the “Superman miracle.” He is credited with helping Christopher Reeve regain some movement.
Cole said that he learned more about McDonald. McDonald is in high demand to those with spinal cord injuries. Patients are lucky to be admitted to his care. “When you’re Christopher Reeve’s doctor, there is a high demand,” Cole said.
Cole told his close friend, Jim Talent, “if you can ever figure out how to get me in, just for an evaluation, I’d love to go.”
Talent was able to arrange an evaluation for Cole in October 2002. Cole was very impressed with the doctor. “He’s as common as a shoe,” he said. “He just sat down and talked to me.”
“I’ve always been told no (about recovery) all my life. This man doesn’t believe in that,” Cole said.
“McDonald said ‘I’m not going to tell you that I can make you walk again, but I will make your quality of life a lot better,’” Cole remembered.
McDonald agreed to help Cole, but told him that his success would depend on how much Cole was willing to do.
Although the physical work was all up to Cole, he gives much praise to his wife. “I could not have done any of this without Cindy, my wife,” Cole said. “She has been very supportive and helpful,” he said.
In December of 2002, Cole went to St. Louis for a week of one-on-one instruction on his new exercise regime. “McDonald doesn’t believe in staying in the hospital for rehab when you can do it at home,” he said.
Now, Cole rides an Ergys bike, as recommended by McDonald. The bike attaches computer-programmed electrodes from the equipment to his body. These electrodes stimulate the nerves. The muscles contract, resulting in movement. McDonald suggests these electrodes may possibly stimulate nerve Regeneration as well.
In the beginning he only rode for 30 minutes a day, but now rides for one hour, or 10 1/2 miles, every day.
Cole reports that he can feel a change in his leg muscle. “When you touch it every day, it’s hard to tell, but I can definitely tell a difference since I began riding,” he said. This exercise will continue as long as Cole thinks it is necessary. McDonald instructed him to come back “whenever you think you are ready.”
Eventually, he will wear a computerized harness, similar to leg braces. Like the bike, the harness will contain electrodes to produce stimuli and help Cole walk.
The built to order bike cost $15,000, which Cole described as “cheap” and “just pennies” compared to the rest of his treatment, which insurance does not cover.
“You can’t put a price on your legs,” he said.
In October 2003, Cole returned to St. Louis to tour the entire facility, including the lab.
In the lab, McDonald and his team paralyze mice, attempting to find a way to reconnect the spinal cord. “He believes that the spinal cord can rejuvenate itself,” Cole said.
McDonald, in his early 40s, appears to bring much hope to Cole and other patients with spinal cord injuries. “I never give up hope,” Cole said.
“Of course I would love to be able to walk again someday,” he said. But he is realistic, knowing it may not happen. “If I do (walk) I do, if I don’t, I don’t,” he said.
Cole knows that the only way to overcome his paralysis is to keep working. He won’t settle with his condition. “You can’t do that,” he said.
Instead of waiting for a miracle, Cole is working to make it happen.
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