Story of Recovery: Declan Graham Returns to Work After a Devastating Spinal Cord InjuryBeyond Magazine
Jul 6, 2022
Declan Graham remembers leaving work at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Kissimmee, Fla., on his motorcycle and waking up in the ICU.
“From the police and witness reports, they determined someone cut me off going around a corner. I hit a guardrail at 40 miles an hour. My chest hit the guardrail first, and my body got bent in half over it. My spine broke. My ribs broke and went into my lungs, collapsing them,” said Declan.
He sustained a T-5 spinal cord injury and required immediate surgery. “They had to fuse four of my vertebrae together, and put two rods, eight screws in my back, and some chest tubes as well.” He spent three weeks in ICU and another week in the hospital. “The thing that really got me through that was my support system, my family. And I knew I had to keep a strong mental mindset throughout the whole thing.”
Declan’s father did some research on rehabilitation options and determined Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Fla. was the best place for Declan to continue his recovery.
When Declan first arrived at Brooks, he could only wiggle the toes on his left foot. As an athlete who loved going to the gym, Declan was worried therapists wouldn’t push him hard enough. His physical therapist, Emily Andrews, and occupational therapist, Cassidy Cramer, quickly alleviated those fears. His therapy was tailored to his specific needs and abilities – working on both his mobility and how to be as independent as possible in a wheelchair.
When Declan was well enough, he was able to easily transition to his next level of care offered at Brooks. He started the Spinal Cord Injury and Related Disorders Day Treatment program. His overall goals in the SCI day program were “to strengthen my upper body, strengthen my right arm, and most importantly, to strengthen my legs and get my form down to perfection in order to be able to walk,” said Declan. He used the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) and other specialized technology along with clinicians experienced in helping patients like Declan.
When Declan returned home, he was able to continue physical therapy with HAL in Brooks’ Osceola Crossings outpatient clinic. “Declan has made great progress both in and out of HAL,” said center manager, Carolyn Tremblay, PT, DPT. “He is progressing with balance work in and out of his braces, his endurance and tolerance to activity is increased and he’s increased in independence in all daily activities.” Declan was also able to slowly return back to work.
“From my experiences here, I can’t think of any other place that is as awesome as Brooks is. I was taken care of so much here. I love this place. It’s like a second home to me,” said Declan.