RTI Giveaway Winner: ​Jarod Wagner

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on November 07, 2022 # News

Jarod using the RTI BikeJarod Wagner signed up for the Reeve Foundation’s therapy-bike giveaway last fall —and quickly forgot all about it. In the midst of navigating a life newly reshaped by a C5 spinal cord injury, he had other things on his mind.

So, when the notification arrived a few months later, Wagner and his parents, Russ and Kimberly, were stunned: he’d actually won the RT300-Arm, Leg and Core iFES Therapy System. Donated by Restorative Therapies, the bike combines activity-based therapy and functional electrical stimulation to help people living with paralysis restore muscle mass in leg and arm and core muscles.

“To find out that he’d won it, after everything he’d been through, the best word for it was jubilation,” says Russ Wagner.

Wagner had sustained his injury two years earlier in a catastrophic car accident on March 15, 2020. At the time, he was pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at Penn State University. He’d been diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy when he was five, and although the disease had begun to make climbing stairs more difficult, his life was busy and full.

The spinal cord injury was not only severe but had occurred just as the pandemic hit. His parents arrived at the hospital just in time to see Jarod for a few minutes before visitors were banned for the next six weeks.

Over the next 18 months, Wagner slowly began to regain some function in all limbs. He discovered a local gym designed for people with spinal cord injuries and especially liked its therapy bike, which was similar to the RT300. The idea of having one of his own seemed too good to be true. But, when his name was chosen from more than 2,000 contest entries, it felt like a turning point.

“It really did give me a burst of hope,” he says. “I never thought I’d win in a million years. But I knew I could get a lot of use out of it, and I have.”

After six months of twice-weekly sessions, Wagner says his stamina has increased and his core feels stronger. He especially loves the feeling when the electrical stimulation activates his muscles.

“It zaps my leg muscles, and the more I pedal. Eventually, my muscles start to kick in and take over,” he says.

For his parents, those moments are equally thrilling.

“He’ll tell us, ‘This is me now, I’m pedaling,’” Russ Wagner says. “And that’s such a delight to hear him say.”

Wagner is now splitting his time between his Ohio hometown and Florida, where he participates in an intensive activity-based rehabilitation program. He’s also recently begun taking online classes at Arizona State University to complete his engineering degree.

“The goal is for me to get my muscles walking again ultimately,” he says. “That’s the hope. Do I think I’ll get there? Eventually. It’s a slow process, but it’s definitely getting better.”

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.