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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Overcoming the Impossible

NeuroRecovery Network patient, Tony Malloy.

NeuroRecovery Network patient, Tony Malloy.

By: Janelle LoBello

Name: Tony Malloy
Injury: C5, C6
Mechanism: Snowboarding accident
Date of Injury: January 2010

Just ask 19-year-old Tony Malloy.

Malloy was snowboarding in upstate New York in January of 2010, when one jump changed his life in an instant, resulting in a C5, C6 spinal cord injury.

"I went over a big ramp, and I just went too high in the air," explains Malloy of his fall. "I just fell on my back and the first thing that went through my head is that I couldn't feel my legs. It was scary."


What's next?
Malloy had surgery the following day and was in intensive care for two weeks at Westchester Hospital in upstate New York. In the beginning of February, he was brought to Kessler as an inpatient and was there until May when he was sent home as an outpatient.

Currently, Malloy is still an outpatient at Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey as a Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) patient, which he began in the summer of 2010.

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.

"I've seen a lot of improvement since I've started," says Malloy of his two-and-a-half-hours daily workout. "I'm using my legs a lot. I'm using them functionally now, which I wasn't doing before. I'm a lot stronger and a lot more independent."

Malloy during a locomotor training session suspended in a harness over a treadmill.

Malloy during a locomotor training session suspended in a harness over a treadmill.


Locomotor training making a difference
One of the therapies Malloy performs is locomotor training. Locomotor training is the method of physical therapy currently deployed by the NRN. In locomotor training sessions, the paralyzed patient is suspended in a harness over a treadmill, while specially-trained therapists move his 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.

Other types of therapy Malloy works at are stand retraining and stand adaptability, as one of his physical therapists, Jared Milligan explains.

"Stand retraining is when we try to put him in the proper positioning," says Milligan. "Stand adaptability is when he does most of the work himself. With step retraining we are trying to facilitate as much as possible to get the best pattern. Step adaptability is when he is trying to do as much as he can."

Thanks to his therapies, Malloy is slowly moving away from being dependent on a wheelchair.

"I can stand using a walker," says Malloy of his current progress, "for about 20 or 30 seconds without anyone touching me in the walker. It's not something that I can do functionally yet. I can't use a walker at home, or go walking with it, but I'm moving toward that hopefully. For now I use my legs for transfers and things, but I don't stand all the way up."


Tony Malloy pictured with physical therapists, Lindsay McIntyre, Maureen Duane-Pfeiffer, and Jared Milligan.

Tony Malloy pictured with physical therapists, Lindsay McIntyre, Maureen Duane-Pfeiffer, and Jared Milligan.


"Just keep going"
When asked if Malloy or Milligan foresee the absence of a wheelchair anytime soon, Milligan replied, "So far that's the goal. Just keep working hard and you can achieve anything, that's what Christopher Reeve said, ‘Impossible is Nothing.' So that's how you got to think of it."

Overtime, Malloy has also gained more confidence and is able to live a full a life.

"I've definitely seen a lot of change in Tony since joining the NRN," explains Milligan. "He's gotten so much stronger. From the first day he's been here, as of now, it's been leaps and bounds. If he keeps working, he's going to keep improving, and that's what we like to see. He has a good attitude toward it and he's focused. The focus is not on the past, he is looking ahead. He wants to get where he needs to be, and he will if he keeps doing it the right way."

For anyone who doubts they can overcome the impossible, Malloy simply advises, "Just keep going. Keep Trying. Everyone says this but, don't give up. It's important to just do everything you can to improve your situation."


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


Tell us your story

Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it!

The Alan T Brown Foundation to Cure ParalysisFormed to support research in spinal cord injury.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Aquatic Therapy (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Rehabilitation (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Rehabilitation - Choosing facility (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Fitness and Exercise (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking (PDF)

American Academy of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationAs the premier medical society for the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation, AAPM&R is the only organization exclusively serving the needs of practicing PM&R physicians. With more than 7,500 members, the Academy represents more than 87 percent of US physiatrists and international colleagues from 37 countries.

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)Main membership organization for the PT profession, furthering the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of movement dysfunctions.

The Australian Spinal Research FoundationFunds research for treatments of spinal cord injuries.

American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)ATRA is the largest, national membership organization representing the interests and need of recreational therapists. Recreational therapists are health care providers using recreational therapy interventions for improved functioning of individuals with illness or disabling conditions.

American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationASHA is the professional association for audiologists, speech-language pathologists, as well as speech, language and hearing scientists.

The American Congress of RehabilitationServes people with disabling conditions by promoting rehabilitation research and the transfer of technology.

Association of Rehabilitation NursesPromotes and accredits rehab nurses and promotes the philosophy of care of the nursing professional.

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALS)Funds numerous projects to develop treatments for ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)Advances the field of occupational therapy through standard-setting, advocacy, education, and research.

Aquaticnet.comTherapists. Instructors. Managers. To all in the Aquatics industry. This is your single online clearinghouse of aquatic therapy and fitness information. Why re-create the (aquatic therapy) wheel? We are The Aquatic Therapy Command Center.

Clinical TrialsAn internet resource with current listings of all federally supported clinical trials in the U.S., sorted by disease or condition, location, treatment or sponsor. Developed by the National Library of Medicine.

The Centre for Ambulatory Rehabilitation Research and Education (CARRE)Based in Alberta, Canada, CARRE is a research translational facility that examines various treatments for walking after spinal cord injury.

Center WatchClinical trials listing of industry professionals, patients and info.

Clinical Trials: Ambulation ProgramsList of ambulation programs currently seeking volunteers.

Clinical Trials: Locomotor (treadmill) TrainingList of trials involving locomotor (treadmill) training.

Dana FoundationA nonprofit organization that provides reliable, accessible information on brain and spinal cord research.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)Funds research to develop therapies for many conditions related to paralysis, including traumatic injury and chronic disease.

The International Spinal Research TrustISRT is the only charity based in the United Kingdom dedicated to funding research to end the permanence of paralysis caused by spinal cord injury.

International Campaign for Cures of Spinal Cord Injury ParalysisA group of organizations around the world that together fund about $25 million a year in SCI research. The members include: the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Australasian and International Spinal Research Trusts, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Rick Hansen Institute and Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation.

High Hopes Head Injury ProgramThe High Hopes Head Injury Program was started in 1975, as a result of tough hard work and need of several families. This one-of-a-kind non-profit charitable organization was dedicated to the rehabilitation and retraining of their loved ones who had been devastated by traumatic head injuries.

Lokomat at Sister KennyLokomat® is a robot-assisted treadmill that supports a patient in an upright position while moving the legs through a normal walking pattern – even if a patient is unable to move his or her legs independently.

Model Systems Centers for Spinal Cord InjuryA federally funded program of 14 specialty medical and/or rehabilitation centers across the US. The SCI Care System collects and submits acute, rehabilitation and follow-up (annual, long-term post-discharge) data on SCI patients who received care in the these centers following injury.

The Mike Utley FoundationProvides financial support of selected research, rehabilitation and education programs on spinal cord injuries.

Myelin ProjectFunds research for diseases related to loss of myelin (a fatty insulation on nerve fibers) including multiple Sclerosis and leukodystrophy.

Lokomat Program at Rehabilitation Institute of ChicagoThe Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) provides robot-assisted walking therapy using the Lokomat® to help people improve their ability to walk after disability caused by brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke or neurological and orthopedic conditions.

The National Center for Medical Rehabilitation ResearchNCMRR supports research on enhancing the daily functioning of people with disabilities and hopes to improve mobility, assistive technology and therapies.

National Rehabilitation Association (NRA)Not long after Congress passed the National Rehabilitation Act of 1920, the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA) began its commitment to persons with disabilities. As the oldest and strongest advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, NRA's mission is to provide advocacy, awareness and career advancement for professionals in the fields of rehabilitation. Their members include rehab counselors, physical, speech and occupational therapists, job trainers, consultants, independent living instructors and other professionals involved in the advocacy of programs and services for people with disabilities.

National Rehabilitation Information Center for Independence (NARIC)NARIC offers a range of services, from quick information and referral to extensive database searches of the latest disability and rehabilitation research. They also offer a number of publications, including directories, guides and statistical reports.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation ResearchNIDRR supports research focused on improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The National MS SocietyThe National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now -- to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. MS stops people from moving. We exist to make sure it doesn't.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeProvides research overviews for all diseases and conditions related to paralysis.

The Paralysis Project of AmericaBased in Los Angeles, The Paralysis Project of America funds selected scientific and clinical studies that focus on spinal cord repair and regeneration.

RT 300 FES BikeRTI designs and markets innovative electrical stimulation ergometers to help people with a neurological impairment achieve their full potential.

Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN)The Reeve Foundation NRN is a perfect example of basic science being translated to the clinic and changing lives. Funded by the Reeve Foundation through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a network of cutting-edge rehabilitation centers whose staffs have been trained in intensive activity-based treatments.

The Rick Hansen Man in Motion FoundationCreated in Canada in 1988 to support spinal cord injury research, as well as wheelchair sport, injury prevention and rehabilitation programs.

SpinalCure AustraliaEstablished in 1994 to fund scientific research to find a cure for paralysis.

Sprint AquaticsOver the years Rothhammer International, commonly referred to as Sprint Aquatics, has been designing and patenting products that continue to revolutionize the aquatic industry. As the current owner, Laurel Maas's primary goal for Sprint Rothhammer was and continues to be creating products that meet the needs of those who use the pool as a form of physical therapy, training, and recreation.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.