I became a paraplegic following a surfing accident in the summer of 2006. Like many people in my position, I was immediately told I was never going to walk again. I knew that this could not be farther from the truth. I decided then and there that I was going to do everything in my power to not only stand again, but to walk.
Over the next few years, I was lucky enough to attend therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. My family and I were overwhelmed with joy after each therapy session. We had finally found a place that would push me every single day to recover as much function as possible.
This pushing started by getting my own leg braces, "KAFO's" (Knee Ankle Foot Orthoses). With these braces, your knees are locked in a straightened position at all times. I was finally able to stand and "walk" under my own power. Over a few years, I became more and more comfortable with these leg braces. The more I worked with them, the stronger my muscles became and more function returned. Over years of hard work, using these braces became easier and easier, to the point where my therapist thought I needed new braces to continue to approve. I had never been so excited.
My therapist recommended "stance control" leg braces. These braces are actually able to bend at the knee when you put weight on your toe, but then lock in to place when you put weight on your heel. This simulates a much more natural walking motion. This is when I first came in to contact with Heather, one of the many fantastic employees at Dankmeyer.
Instead of just shipping the braces to me and leaving me to my own devices, my practitioner, Heather O'Connor, insisted I go in to Dankmeyer's facility to make sure the braces functioned correctly. As you can imagine, these braces were extremely difficult to use at first. Going above and beyond as usual, Heather recommended some different exercises I could do to continue to approve and use the braces to the best of my ability.
Since I have had my braces, Heather periodically checks on me to make sure the braces are functioning properly. As I use my braces more and more at physical therapy, I find myself growing stronger and able to move things I was not able to before. This would not be possible without the wonderful people at Dankmeyer.
With Heather and the rest of Dankmeyer's help, there is no doubt in my mind I will continue to improve and achieve my goal of walking again.
Since he wrote this story, Mike competed in the Baltimore Running Festival on October 18, 2014 in the Marathon (26.2 miles) Handcycle Division, where he placed 3rd.