Reeve Spotlight: Next Steps Chicago

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on September 01, 2017 # Research

For most of the participants in the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), the experience becomes about much more than physical recovery.

Finding Hope

It was a chance conversation that led Jesse Hubert to learn about the NRN program at Next Steps Chicago and the opportunity she needed to move forward with her recovery.

In 2013, the single mom of a two-year-old sustained a spinal cord injury from a piece of gym equipment that broke and fell on her. The immediate repercussions were devastating.

“Everything was taken away. Everything I had pride in was gone. It was a huge blow to every part of my life,” said Hubert, an avid athlete and former ballerina. “The learning curve is real steep and the options seemed daunting.”

Hubert got off to a bumpy start, exploring very expensive rehabilitation options and waiting nine months for a wheelchair. But when the wheelchair finally arrived, the man who delivered it told her about Next Steps Chicago and she found the hope she had lost after her accident.

“I was thrilled to find Next Steps Chicago,” said Hubert who started the NRN in 2014. “I’ve had a ton of muscle recovery, mostly in my legs. I went from 92 pounds back to 115. I can stand and walk with a walker when I need to. The NRN made it so I can go back to work as a software engineer while I continue to recover.”

Perhaps most important for Hubert, she feels like she got her life and her confidence back.

“Going to Next Steps is a huge boost. I finally feel like I have someone on my side. In fact, everyone there is on my side, pushing for me,” said Hubert who has a Superman tag on her wheelchair and has participated in several Reeve Foundation events. “The trainers have truly become my friends. It is a special place. It lifts my spirits and makes me happy.”

Pursuing Goals

For Daniel Campbell, the road to recovery also included the Next Steps Chicago NRN. After breaking his neck in a 2012 accident while wrestling with a friend, Campbell started Locomotor Training about a year after his injury.

“Within weeks of my injury, I recovered my arm function and got some sensation back in my lower extremities, but I wanted to try something more aggressive to regain mobility,” said Campbell. “With Locomotor Training along with other rehabilitation activities I was pursuing at the same time, I saw recovery of more sensation as well as some functional recovery of my bladder and bowel.”

Through controlling the spasticity in his legs, Campbell progressed from a distance of two feet with a platform walker to a 197-foot personal record. Although his progress was encouraging, he also had to consider his future.

“I was accepted to a robotic engineering program at Arizona State University and I had to make a decision between school or Locomotor Training,” said Campbell. “I miss the NRN. If I have the time and access, I would absolutely seek out a place like the NRN in the future.”

Meanwhile, Campbell is already putting his education to good use in developing a device to facilitate Locomotor Training at a fraction of the cost of most machines. He has built his second prototype to test at a local therapy center.

“I have improved better than average and for that I feel lucky,” said Campbell. “The science isn’t mature yet. I’ve read the research and I believe in it. It seems solid. I want to do what I can to help.”

Focus of the Future

After a 2012 diving accident, Daniel Tsutsumi also had to learn to adjust to life with a spinal cord injury. Since starting his NRN Locomotor Training membership at Next Steps Chicago in 2013, he has regained most of his sensation and better bladder and bowel control.

“I am building more strength which allows me to be more independent, to dress myself and get in and out of my wheelchair,” said Tsutsumi. “I have strong muscle spasticity which can be functional. I’ve trained my muscles to turn on when I’m doing the Locomotor Training.”

Like Hubert and Campbell, Tsutsumi has turned his sights on the future. In the fall, he plans to return to school to finish his undergraduate degree. A physical therapy major before his injury, Tsutsumi has decided to change his career to counseling to help others who have gone through a traumatic injury.

“It’s nice to be surrounded by people in a similar situation. It’s not easy and we can support each other as we struggle and fight together,” said Tsutsumi. “In the end, I’m still going to try my hardest. I know the odds and I still press on. I don’t have a lot of control over my recovery. I can only keep going.”

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.