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Rebuilding from the ground up

by Amanda Larsen

A small businessman in Kalamazoo for 34 years, Jeff Block, ended a long day of work on a rainy July evening with the routine job of emptying his truck bed of the day’s debris.

Jeff heaved the trash into the dumpster and slipped. He lost his footing and fell off the truck. His neck hit the ground as his body flipped over and he landed face first between his truck and the dumpster.

Jeff knew he was in serious condition by the crack he heard in his neck and the fact that he couldn’t move.

Alone in the rain, Jeff yelled for help for a few hours. His son happened to step out on his deck before leaving for the evening and heard a strange sound that he went to investigate. He found his dad and called 911.

Jeff had a broken neck and no feeling from the waist down.

After a short hospital stay, Jeff was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. At Mary Free Bed, Jeff has a rigorous regime of therapies with the goal of recovering his mobility. His success is a product of his hard work, the dedication of his therapists and the variety of his therapies.

Jeff works to maintain an optimistic frame of mind. “I tell myself that I am going to walk again. You don’t get better if you’re depressed,” he explained.

Jeff isn’t afraid of hard work and thinking outside the box. He learned that from starting and maintaining his family business, Great Lakes Insulation. Those traits have proven important in his journey.

Partnering with him in his recovery are his therapists.

“The people at Mary Free Bed are so nice,” Jeff said. “There isn’t a lot of stress here. The therapists seem to like their jobs – you can tell because they aren’t grumpy.”

One of Jeff’s favorite therapies is aquatic therapy.

“It feels so good to be weightless. The therapists push me hard, but the next day I can walk just a little better.”

In the pool Jeff works on balance, sitting and standing and walking. He uses parallel bars to walk the length of the pool.

“I have no feeling in my legs from the waist down,” Jeff says. “My brain forgot how to walk, so I’m relearning. When I get out of the pool, I can feel the muscles that I have worked.”

Even though he has no feeling in his legs, he does have pain. The pool is the one place where he is pain-free. His aquatic therapy sessions often end with a relaxing float.

“I lay in the life preserver and feel my body relax,” he said.

After four months, Jeff is walking with crutches and looking forward to heading home in December. He is leaving Mary Free Bed with a different outlook.

“I want to get back to my business, but I also want to take life more slowly,” he explained. “I might take off a few more days and enjoy my family.”

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