A Story Of Resilience: Recovering from a Spinal Cord Injury
Going the distance. What does that mean to you? To push yourself every day, to accomplish your goals to always strive to be better, whether that may be to make a desired sports team, to do better in school or even something as simple as waking up every morning to go to work. We all have hardships and obstacles we face day-to-day that may cloud or fog our dreams and desires, to push ourselves and go the distance every day to look for that light at the end of the tunnel.
For me, to regain what my injury has stolen from me is why I wake up every morning to "Go The Distance." Just a little more than a year ago, fresh out of high school, I was a young independent 18-year-old like most young adults. I had been working at a local painting job full-time to save up for traveling, school, and overall life. My career dream has always been to become a firefighter ever since I can remember. As a result of this, I would have to train every day to prepare for the physical testing that I never had a chance to attend. This test was scheduled just 10 days after my accident.
My New Normal: Spinal Cord Injury
I had entered a trampoline park late on a Friday night with my girlfriend at the time for some late night fun. Trampoline parks were nothing new to me as I had been well-versed in them and attended multiple different locations and never thought anything differently of the one I had just entered. On my first jump in, from the trampoline into the foam pit I had front flipped in only to bottom out on the concrete below the trampoline breaking my C5 vertebrae, immediately paralyzing me from the neck down.
From that day forward my life would take a very different turn, and my journey to recover would begin. From learning how to breathe again after my lung had collapsed in intensive care to figuring out how to navigate a fork with my new non-compliant hands, many things I did not think would be affected by a spinal cord injury would leave me with little to no independence.
Schwann Cell Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
I decided to defy all odds given to me by my injury and not allow them to become my fate, to go the distance until my goals of walking again were reached. In result of that mindset and countless hours of online searching is when I came across a study at University of Miami in Florida. In this study neurologists and biomedical engineers have often thought of using Schwann cells from your own body found in your peripheral nervous system responsible for regenerating axons, and injecting them into the injured site of your spinal cord to hopefully regain and re-grow the spinal cord. Through much testing and studies on mice and other exhibits they have found that Schwann cells can potentially provide this growth factor.
Through much screening and multiple conversations over the phone and even a week trip down to Miami for further testing, that being MRIs, blood work in multiple different tests I had been selected under the cervical level (ASIA C) to receive this Schwann cell treatment. I was the only Canadian and the youngest participate in the study
How Will You Go The Distance?
I am beyond excited for the road ahead, but what I’m even more excited for is knowing that I won’t allow myself to give up on my goals and dreams and to always go the distance until they are obtained!
Everyone in this world will face these curveballs life throws at you, and I hope that I can inspire and motivate people to not allow these curveballs strike us out, but allow them to make us stronger and more hungry to obtain our dreams. Thank you very much for reading this far, and I will continue to inspire!
Follow my journey on Instagram: @Landonclarksmith