Carlos biking down the road and smiling

Story of Recovery: A Fall at Work Leads to New Activities

Beyond Magazine

Dec 2, 2022

Carlos Rojas Garcia was working in construction when he fell nine feet off a roof. He was taken immediately to Memorial Hospital for acute care then transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital – University Campus for intensive spinal cord injury rehabilitation under the supervision of Howard Weiss, DO.

Carlos broke his back at T 5-6 so his two months of inpatient care consisted of learning how to care for himself when he couldn’t feel or move from the chest down. His nurses and therapists also provided training for Carlos’ wife, Lilly, to help her care for him when he returned home.

Carlos had to wear a back brace for a year after his injury per guidance from his workers compensation physician. While limited in what he could do in a brace, he was still attending outpatient therapy with Brooks at their Healthcare Plaza clinic to learn how to be independent again with basic skills. He also attended the independent program at the Neuro Recovery Center to use standing frame and functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike to promote neurological recovery and cardiovascular strength/endurance.

“Carlos has always been motivated, is a hard worker, and is always open to new challenges presented to him in physical therapy. He is always seeking out ways he can be physically active and strives to reach his goals,” said Riddhi Patel, PT, DPT, at Brooks Healthcare Plaza outpatient clinic.

Once his brace came off, he attended the Spinal Cord Injury and Related Disorders Day (SCI/D) Treatment program. This specialized outpatient therapy program is overseen by a medical director and the interdisciplinary team includes a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist and a nurse case manager, all with specialized training in spinal cord injuries. Fourteen months after his accident, he now had to learn how to move without the support of his brace, as well as the more advanced skills like getting off the floor, walking with braces and a walker and learning to do personal care independently. At the end of 12 weeks in the SCI/D Day program, Carlos met most of his goals of being independent again. He was even able to transfer to the riding lawn mower to cut his own lawn.

“Being in these programs really helped me to feel like I’m not alone. There are other people in the same situation as I am, so I feel normal here,” said Carlos.

Carlos was also introduced to the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program. Brooks Rehabilitation offers one of the most comprehensive and diverse adaptive sports and recreation programs in the country, providing fun and fitness for people of all ages living with various disabilities. Our program offers the opportunity to participate in activities that provide social connection and physical activity, the two most important elements of a healthy lifestyle. Program participants may enjoy recreational or competitive team and individual sports and recreational activities at no charge.

Carlos enjoys bowling because his wife and two daughters join him. He’s also tried fishing and golf, which he hopes to return to once the heat of the summer has subsided. His favorite activity is handcycling though because he “can be out in nature and enjoying the outdoors.”

On any weekday, you can find Carlos at Brooks, continuing his recovery in the NRC. Carlos and Lilly also recently signed on to be mentors to others in similar situations, helping them understand they aren’t alone either.

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