NRN Patient Will Not Be Defeated
By: Janelle LoBello
Name: Jon "Zak" Zakarin
On August 13, 2006, Jon "Zak" Zakarin, age 46, was body surfing at Robert Moses Beach in Long Island, NY when suddenly the tide changed, and so did his life.
"I was body surfing, wave diving and swimming all day, things I've done my entire life," recalls Zak. "We must have shifted our location a little bit unintentionally, and when I went in, I hit a sandbar that was not where I was all day."
Classified from doctors as living with a C7 level spinal cord injury, Zak is part of the Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network at Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange, NJ.
The NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) 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 with paralysis.
Expectations and intensity
"When I knew that I was on the top of the NRN waiting list, I took to a completely different way of eating," explains Zak. "From the end of the summer  until now, I've lost about 25 pounds. I probably lost 10-12 pounds since the starting at the NRN."
Part of this success came from Zak's personal determination to work out on his own. "My gym is incredibly accessible," says Zak of his workout regimen before the NRN. "I can get on and off machines by self; do upper body stuff, leg presses, crunches, swim and walk in the water with my walker."
Entering the NRN with some walking abilities in the Fall of 2011, Zak believes he is still getting other benefits from the NRN. Driving four hours and almost 130 miles each day to and from the NRN in New Jersey and his home in Melville, NY, Zak is incredibly determined to get the most out of his therapy.
"It all depends on the expectations somebody sets for themselves," says Zak. "I look at it NRN therapy as a very intense workout. My cardiovascular and endurance has improved and my general health is better as a result of the activity."
You only live once
A family man - father to Erik, age 17, Parris, age 16, and Carly, age 13 - Zak is dedicated to having a large presence in his children's lives. Prior to his injury, Zak traveled often as the Vice President of Sales at a technology company. "It wasn't really feasible to continue traveling," explains Zak, now retired.
Of continuing to move forward in his life, Zak proves to be active. He is a frequent concert-goer to Rock and Roll and jazz performances and also coaches his kids' basketball and soccer teams. Zak and Erik are also season ticket holders to the New York Knicks.
"My son told me to use the expression from the rapper, Drake, YOLO – you only live once," laughs Zak. "One-hundred-percent, you have to live your life, you only get one chance."
Tell us your story