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Alex’s Story: Heading Home After Spinal Cord Injury

On September 14, 2019 everything changed for Special Tree client Alex when his motorcycle was struck by a driver going 40 mph.  He was thrown 25 feet and vividly remembers thinking “please Lord let me be able to get up from this when I land.”

As an avid biker and veteran truck driver, Alex liked to be on the move.  Now, he found himself immobilized in a hospital bed with a split pelvis, fractures in both hips and legs, and a smashed left hand.  When his body had healed enough to begin therapy, Alex experienced another setback.  When he tried to stand, he couldn’t feel his legs.  “That’s when my doctors first discovered I had a spinal cord injury.” 

After a successful surgery to repair his spinal cord, Alex was admitted to Special Tree’s Inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program in January 2020 to finally begin rehabilitation.  “I had a bunch of challenges when I first came to Special Tree, but was determined to get home as soon as I could.” 

His rehabilitation team customized a treatment plan to help Alex regain mobility, strength, and independent living skills to work towards his goal of returning home.   With intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and aquatic therapy, Alex has made huge progress.   He is now able to climb stairs again, regain full mobility in his left hand, use his walker for longer periods of time, and cook his own meals.

“Alex is a very hard worker and pushes himself every day to maximize his independence,” said Emmalie Pringle, Special Tree Physical Therapist.   Special Tree Occupational Therapist Cyndi Bruce agrees.  “He has made exceptional progress toward his goals and has been very encouraging and positive in his interactions with other clients,” she said.

 “Emmalie and Cyndi were right there with me from day one.  They push you, but they encourage you to keep going,” he said.  “I get encouragement from everyone at Special Tree.  They’re awesome, all of them!”   Alex says he also appreciates the little things that staff did to help him get better.  During a therapy session to relearn how to tie his shoes, Alex bet Occuational Therapy Assistant Gavin Milner coffee and donuts that he would tie his shoes by the end of the day.  “It was hard, but I did it. The next day Gavin shows up with some coffee and donuts.  It made me feel so good.” 

Alex transitioned to Heavlin House, Special Tree’s SCI Residential program, in March to continue working with his team on sharpening his independent living skills.  He plans to return home once modifications to his house are finished.   “I’m ready,” said Alex, adding that he’s looking forward to having dogs once again, refilling his 110 gallon fish tank, and having his own space.  Although he isn’t ready to return to work, he was encouraged to learn from a vendor at Special Tree’s SCI Mobility + Recreation Expo in August about different options for keeping his Commercial Driver’s License. 

“It’s a blessing to be able to do what I can do right now,” said Alex. “I’m so grateful to everyone at Special Tree.  I’ve told anyone who’s been concerned about me that I’m in one of the best places for rehabilitation."