In 1998 I suffered a life changing accident from an ocean wave, while vacationing in Mexico with my wife. The resulting inomplete spinal cord injury left me motionless from the neck down – I am a C-4/5 quadriplegic. Told I would never walk, I decided to make physical rehabilitation my single focus.
There was no model or protocol for extended, high intensity rehab for spinal cord injuries, but I was able to find a therapist willing to push the envelope and create techniques on the run. Before it was a recognized therapy, I started an un-weighted treadmill program, beginning with a three minute session with 150 lbs un-weighted, and progressed to 40 minutes with no un-weighting. Moving on to walkers and crutches, I then took my first three unassisted steps in 2005 and have now taken over 100.
I believe that we don’t know the effect of long term, higher intensity physical rehab by persons with SCI, but I’m trying to find out. I continue to work out six days a week, with a simple goal of taking one more step than I took yesterday.
For me, the intangible result of the physical efforts is that I have the energy and motivation to be more productive than ever, and make a difference.
In 2003 I co-founded a unique physical therapy practice with my long time PT – Polly Swingle -The Recovery Project. We specialize in spinal cord and neurological recovery, and are giving hope and changing lives. (There is a video of my walking at the company’s website: therecoveryproject.net).
Finally, I am most proud of the creation of The Mary and Charles A. Parkhill Foundation for Spinal Cord Rehabilitation. Our Mission Statement is:
While scientists, doctors and researchers around the world seek a cure for spinal cord and other neurological injuries, the responsibility of high intensity rehabilitation therapists is to keep those of us with SCI/TBI healthy and fit until a cure is found, or in a lifetime of fitness.
Unfortunately, there are injured individuals without the healthcare benefits or private resources required for ongoing therapy and exercise.
The mission of The Mary and Charles A. Parkhill Foundation for Spinal Cord Rehabilitation is to raise funds that will be granted to those individuals, in the form of scholarships, to obtain therapy services.
Since 2005, we have raised over $100,000 and awarded four grants.