ON MAY 17TH, 2012, MY CAR WAS HIT ON THE SOUTHERN STATE PARKWAY BY A CAR THEY ESTIMATED WAS GOING 90-100 MPH. MY SUV FLIPPED 7-8 TIMES AND I WAS PINNED INSIDE THE TRUCK.
Once they cut me out, I was airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital with fractures of the C2 through C7 vertebrae and a spinal cord injury with paralysis from my neck down. When I arrived at Stony Brook, they surgically put two rods in my neck to stabilize it and performed surgery to open up my spinal canal to help the swelling. They really could not answer much about the paralysis but did feel that I might be able to walk again with assistance and were unsure about the use of my arms due to the injury locations.
After 2 weeks in the ICU unit and one more in the step down unit, I was transferred to Rusk Rehab Facility in NY Medical Center still unable to move.
I spent 6 weeks of very intense rehab there and by the 6th week finally started getting movement in my legs and feeling in my arms and hands. When I was released to go home, I was able to walk with a special walker but nothing with my arms. I spent months at St. Charles and Good Samaritan Hospitals for out-patient rehab which helped with my legs but I still could not do anything with my arms. That’s when I stopped going to rehab and my wife Donna insisted she take me to the YMCA. She was a personal trainer for years and cared for her mother after her stoke. I started in the pool 3-4 times a week. She would help me walk and then move my arms. Slowly after that I started regaining more and more movement on my own.
After weeks in the pool, she started to take me into the gym to try and gain strength in both my arms and legs. At first I could not move the weight machines with any weight at all but over time we got to 5 lbs., then 10 lbs. and the more we did the better it became. At this point, I became a YMCA addict having her take me whenever she could. I was also told I probably could never drive again but we proved them wrong. My wife would take me to empty parking lots to practice and once I was okay, I started going to the Y almost every day. During all this time the support from the staff and members at the Y was such a tremendous help because they noticed every little improvement and let me know they did. To this day, they still do 4 years later.
The member contests at the YMCA also gave me drive. For the the last 2 years in May, I have done the Strive for 5 Challenge (to lose 5 lbs.) and lost a total of 35 lbs. We also had a pushup contest between friends at our Y to do 100 pushups every day for a month which led me to where I do 200-300 every day in sets of 25 for over a year after only being able to do 1 or 2 at the time we started. My doctors are all shocked when I walk into their offices. They say I am a miracle and should be happy with how far I have come. I believe with the hard work my wife and myself put in, the support of my friends and family and the support by the Y staff and members who did not let me get down on myself, there is still room to improve. I come to the YMCA 6-7 days a week and do not see that ending soon!