Spinal Cord Injury Leads to New Paths for Eli Biddy

Patient Experience

Dec 31, 2016

The bar Eli Biddy managed was pretty quiet for a Friday night so he decided to send most of his staff home early. He realized quickly that he’d made a mistake. Soon after the staff left, a large bachelor party arrived. Eli helped out as much as he could by washing dishes in the back until the bar closed. The challenge was the sink was about 18” off the floor and Eli is 6’8” tall.

Exhausted and in pain, Eli went home and fell asleep in his recliner. When he woke up, he thought his legs were asleep. He shook them but they wouldn’t move. He crawled to the floor and called 911.

Deciphering the Issue

When he arrived at the hospital, clinicians originally thought it was related to diabetes although his blood sugar was never elevated. Eli’s mom, a former life flight nurse, pressed for better answers and more tests. Eli was finally diagnosed with an incomplete spinal cord injury. Disks were pressing on and flattening his spinal cord.

Eli was transferred from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health Gainesville where he underwent emergency surgery. He was told pre- and post-surgery that there was an 80-85% chance he’d never walk again.  The surgery should have been performed in the first 24-36 hours but his surgery was 74 hours after his injury, thus the pessimistic prognosis.

Eli was transferred to Brooks two weeks later.

Moving Forward

“When I first arrived at Brooks, I had no movement or control of my legs. I started out doing a lot of upper body exercises to strengthen myself as I tried to prepare for life in a wheelchair. After two weeks, I was able to twitch my legs. My therapists used electrical stimulation while bike pedaling which was starting to make minimal improvements,” Eli said.

Once his surgical incision healed, he asked his physical therapist about pool therapy. Eli loved the water and thought he’d enjoy being in the pool.  The first day, Eli took five steps in chest high water although he could barely stand while holding the ladder. Each day for the rest of his stay, he went back for 1-1.5 hours.

“On the fifth day, I walked 800 steps and stood in the shallower end about waist high without too much of a struggle. My muscles and nerves were starting to re-fire. It was a pain of joy so to speak. Two weeks later I stood on the bars and walked with only the help of some ace wraps to keep my toes up,” he said.

Eli’s discharge kept getting pushed back because he was making so much progress. A day after being discharged, he was able to attend the wedding of a close friend. Coincidentally, one of Eli’s weekend physical therapists was at the same wedding and helped him conquer the wet grassy slopes with his walker.

A New Start

Once back home in Tallahassee, Eli continued physical therapy. After another month of aquatic therapy, he graduated from the wheelchair to the walker full-time. Two weeks late, he was walking with a cane and leg braces.

By January, just five months after Eli’s surgery, he was back to working full-time. That May, he went on a blind date that changed the direction of his life again.  As his relationship with Ashley progressed, he moved to her hometown of Perry, started work as a full time substitute teacher and returned to one of his first loves, football.  He is now the Varsity Offensive Line Coach for the Taylor County Bulldogs.

On September 28, Eli and his now fiancé’ Ashley returned to Brooks so that he could share his journey with others. He was honored to be invited and excited to see the doctors, therapists, nurses and other staff members from Brooks that he says are all always on his mind, and in his heart and prayers. When asked what advice he would give to those in a similar position, he shared that he always talks about mental toughness with his students, but that you also need a positive attitude.