Joe Parrish was on a relaxing vacation with family and friends in the Dominican Republic when his world was turned upside down. While sailing, the boat flipped over and hit him on the head. He was unable to swim or even keep himself above the water. He was pulled to the beach, brought to the local hospital, and then placed on a backboard for 12 hours. Joe couldn’t move his arms or shoulders and had a “pins and needles” feeling throughout his body, but he still didn’t know what was wrong.

Then Joe was taken via Life-Flight to a hospital in Florida where they discovered that he had a spinal cord injury at the C4 level. They performed surgery and Joe began his recovery process in the hospital.

Following his hospital stay, Joe elected to go to Illinois to participate in inpatient rehabilitation. When he began rehab he was only able to move his right toes. He was hoping to make great progress during rehab, but was unable to tolerate more than 30 seconds of upright activity at a time because of low blood pressure.

Following his inpatient rehab, he returned to his home town and began outpatient physical therapy at the Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza. After making progress in physical therapy, Joe was enrolled in the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for his physical therapy treatments. In the NRN, Joe began locomotor training in July 2010.  

Joe talks about the NeuroRecovery Network

Joe talks about the NeuroRecovery Network

In my first month of treatment, I was unable to take a step and needed three people to help me transfer in and out of my wheelchair. Although the NeuroRecovery Network Program requires much of my family’s time and resources, the results have been well worth it. The progress that I have seen while participating in the NRN, as well as my continued occupational therapy, is just phenomenal.

After months of hard work and support from family and friends,  I can walk independently with a walker, and even sometimes without a walker, as long as someone is close to assist me. I can get out of my wheelchair by myself. I am able to do chores around the house, which my wife is very thankful for. My biggest achievement has been being able to walk. Mid-April 2011, I was able to go back to work for a few hours a day for the first time since my injury.

With continued therapy I hope to be able to work full time without relying so much on assistance from others. I would eventually like to be able to drive myself, walk into the building and walk up the stairs without needing a walker, chair lift or my wife to assist me. I enjoyed flying planes prior to my accident and am working toward being able to fly again.

I feel lucky to take part in the NRN and it would be a shame if someone didn’t take advantage of it if they had the opportunity.

Currently, the opportunity to be part of the NRN is not widely available to everyone who could benefit from it. Through the generous contributions of caring individuals and groups, this opportunity will become more accessible to individuals suffering from spinal cord injury.  

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