Tom's Story [Spinal Cord Injury Program]
Tom Weaver and a friend were cruising along the winding Blue Ridge Parkway on their motorcycles, enjoying the freedom of the road and the scenic mountain views. Then one of the twists in the road took him by surprise. “I missed the left-hand curve and my buddy saw me hit the guard rail,” says Tom.
Tom spent 11 days in a North Carolina trauma center and two more weeks in a Grand Rapids ICU before being transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. His injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down. Yet because of the support and expertise of the doctors, nurses and therapists in the Mary Free Bed Spinal Cord Injury Program, he still had hope.
“When I was first admitted,” he explains, “I had to be hydraulically lifted from the bed to a wheelchair for my therapy sessions.” Tom spent the next 2 1/2 months working hard to regain his independence. “The therapists and nurses have a feeling for how far they can push you. They would push to get me to do things on my own – which really helped my recovery.”
One of Tom’s biggest accomplishments while at Mary Free Bed was his completion of the driver rehabilitation program. He learned to drive a vehicle with special controls that he can operate with his hands. Today he drives his own modified van, getting around town with no assistance at all.
His rehabilitation has given Tom back his freedom. He’s even been able to return to his full-time job at Jenison High School, where he teaches mathematics – and optimism. “No one at Mary Free Bed ever told me, ‘You won’t be able to do that,’” he says.