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"Keep Moving"

By: Janelle LoBello

The group
Joe Parrish says he has used the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) as a way to “keep moving.”

Name: Joe Parrish
Injury: C3
Mechanism of Injury: Sailboat accident
Date of Injury: March 18, 2010

Joe Parrish, age 56, has used the Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) as a way to “keep moving.” Living with a spinal cord injury, Parrish tried several different types of therapy before finding the right fit at the NRN.

On March 18, 2010 Parrish was vacationing in the Dominican Republic when a sailboat flipped over. "I was coming up, it was coming down, and hit me on the top of the head," explains Parrish.

He had a spinal cord compression at the C3 level, but Parrish says there were no facilities in the Dominican Republic that were able to treat his condition. After flying to Miami, FL for surgery, then rehabbing at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Parrish was ready to go to his native of Columbus, Ohio after almost three-months of surgery and rehab away from home.

After some in-house physical therapy where therapist came to his home, Parrish recalls, "It just didn't work. It wasn’t going to advance my therapy at all."

A few months after his initial injury, Parrish found the NRN at Ohio State University Medical Center (OSU.) In July 2010, he started the program and has improved significantly.

The NeuroRecovery Network is a cooperative network of cutting-edge rehabilitation centers designed to provide and develop therapies to promote functional recovery and improve the health and quality of life of people living with paralysis.

Locomotor training is the method of physical therapy currently deployed by the NRN. In locomotor training sessions the body of the paralyzed patient is suspended in a harness over a treadmill, while specially-trained therapists move their legs to simulate walking. As the patient regains function, he moves from the treadmill to conventional walking. No two NRN patients will respond in exactly the same way, nor is each patient likely to experience the entire range of possible changes and improvements.

Multi-level independence
Prior to the NRN, Parrish would have to be board transferred (sliding a board under an individual to be lifted and moved) from a manual wheelchair and could not sit erect on his own for more than 30 seconds, let alone be able to stand or walk.

Parrish says his previous therapies were of "no comparison" to the therapy he has received at the NRN. While Parrish still uses a power wheelchair for longer distances, he is able to walk up to 600-feet with just a walker, and has better bladder control. "My function is close to normal," says Parrish.

In addition to his functional gains, Parrish says he has "multi-leveled independence." "I was completely dependent on others and now am able to get around on my own," explains Parrish, who owns a company which invests in real estate and develops warehouses. "I can get around the house myself, get to the office without being dependent on somebody, can get in the car and go for a coffee or latte without bothering somebody, or go to a job site."

The fact that Parrish can live his life by his own standards makes him more physically and mentally comfortable. "Part of being independent is just feeling better about yourself," says Parrish. Living in a wooded area, Parrish can enjoy some of his favorite past times again, like going outside and enjoying the outdoors on his John Deere Gator Utility Vehicle.

Post NRN success
Though Parrish is no longer an active NRN participant as of late 2011, he continues to rehab on his own. Parrish and his wife go to a local gym three-times-a-week. In a 92-degree therapy pool, , Parrish is able to loosen his muscles. "I walk and work on my balance," explains Parrish. "If I fall, it doesn’t hurt!"

Along with the pool workouts, Parrish goes to OSU once a week for out-patient therapy. "We work on different things every week. It might be walking or it might be working on my shoulders. We fine-tune some of my exercise program."

As Parrish has improved his quality of life due in part to the NRN, Parrish advises, to "go after the best physical therapy that’s available to you. I am fortunate to have the NRN program fairly close to me. It's a phenomenal program."

Learn More
Learn all about how the Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) is developing and expanding access to activity-based therapies, resulting in improved health, quality of life, and function.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders