Tom Morris, the strength and conditioning coach at Indiana University, enjoyed training for and participating in triathlons, road races, mountain races, cyclocross, and adventure races. For many of these races, Tom competed with his friend, Jason (see the pictures above). In May of 2012, during one of his usual training rides, Tom was involved in a mountain bike accident. He flipped over the handlebars of his bike and hit his head, resulting in a spinal cord injury which left Tom with impairment of his hand function and no movement in his legs.
Tom has since channeled his dedication for extreme sports and training toward his recovery process in the Neuro Recovery Network (NRN) at Frazier Rehab Institute. Only three days after his injury, Tom was involved in physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation. Tom is now participating in physical therapy through locomotor training five days per week and aquatic therapy two days per week to help recover his ability to walk, occupational therapy three days per week to fully recover the use of his hands, and massage therapy two days per week. Tom is also involved in an FMS study.
Since starting in the NRN, Tom says his biggest achievement thus far is being “twenty times stronger than I was directly after the accident”. He also notes that his blood pressure has become regulated again and his legs have become very active. Tom says he is now “able to control small movements in my legs”. Tom’s pulmonary function (his ability to breathe properly) has improved from 60% of normal function initially to now 91% of normal function. Tom has improved his core stability which is essential for the recovery of standing and walking and also using his wheelchair safely.
Though Tom is making strides with his rehab, he still faces some hardships and struggles adapting to his new life. Tom has difficulty reaching things from his wheelchair, navigating his chair around obstacles, and learning new life skills that many of us take for granted. While going through rehab, he has moved into a new home because his home is not wheelchair accessible. He is now in the process of learning a new way to get himself around in his car and adapting the vehicle to allow him to drive with hand controls.
Even small gains in function and independence following spinal cord injury can have a huge impact on a patient’s life. It’s liberating, motivating, and healing. Sponsored by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the NeuroRecovery Network is dedicated to providing patients with the opportunity to recover as much function as possible. With additional funding the NRN can grow and be able to treat more individuals, like Tom, whose lives have been affected by paralysis. Please consider making a contribution to this wonderful cause.