NRN Spotlight: William (Bill) Larkin

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on February 14, 2018 # Research

Bill Larkin has done a lot of thinking about what he terms the “restarts” in his life.

“All restarts deal with a significant change in your life,” said Larkin. “Some are big, some are small, some are planned, some are unplanned, some are good, some are bad. But you will note upon reflection, they are all pivotal events in your life.”

For Larkin, life’s biggest restart occurred in the middle of the night in August 2013.

“We had recently moved to a new home with a second-floor master bedroom,” said Larkin. “I was sleepwalking, fell down a flight of stairs and broke my neck. I was initially diagnosed as a quadriplegic.”

Larkin had an incomplete break at his C5 and C6 vertebrae. After two operations and a six-week hospital stay, he improved to where he could move his arms and legs, but he could not walk. After his discharge, he started rehabilitation at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX.

“While I was in the rehab gym, I learned about the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) and applied immediately,” said Larkin. “It was an intense program but I never missed an appointment during my nine months at the NRN. All the NRN therapists were incredible. It was well-staffed with well-educated, caring professionals. I always felt very comfortable there.” (TIRR was an NRN member through 2016.)

The NRN program helped Larkin rebuild his muscle strength and tone and to relearn how to walk.

“I had to learn how to swing my arms again, how to regulate my pace, the proper placement of my feet and how to support my own weight,” said Larkin. “For me, a lot of the NRN benefits were mental. Coming from thinking I would never walk again to being in an upright position on the treadmill doing Locomotor Training was very positive.”

Larkin can now walk for about 15 minutes with a walker. He still goes to rehab five days a week and his goal is to walk without a walker one day. Larkin jokes that for the first 25 years of his marriage, his wife loved to push him around. Now, not so much.

“I would like to be able to walk into the NRN without a walker and go up to the person in the Locomotor Training harness and say, ‘I was where you are,’” said Larkin. “I want to be an inspiration. So many people at the NRN and elsewhere were so awesome. I want to give back.”

To inspire others, Larkin has given several talks at safety conferences. He also reached out to the Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program to become a peer mentor.

“Through my rehab, I have met and seen others with disabilities far worse than mine. They are my heroes and inspiration,” said Larkin. “Since the NRN was so important in my recovery, I want to pay it forward and helps others.”

Larkin continues, “After my fall, I did a re-evaluation of my life. I realized how lucky I have been and how lucky and happy I am just to be alive. I could have died on those steps. Now at the age of 64, I get a chance to live longer, and hopefully in this ‘restart,’ give back to all those who stood by me in my life and have made my life meaningful, not for me, but for others.”

Learn more about the NRN.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.