Spinal Cord Injury

Restoring. Rebuilding. Redefining.

With rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed, you’ll be on your way back to a fulfilling life.

We understand the physical, emotional and practical challenges that people with spinal cord injuries face. An injury is life-changing, but it doesn’t have to change who you are.

We’ll get to know you. What are your goals? What motivates you and gives your life meaning? Knowing these answers will guide our comprehensive, holistic approach to your healing, helping you move beyond your injury.

Rehabilitation takes determination, hard work and a lot of courage, but we can help. You’ve got this.

Why Mary Free Bed?

We offer coordinated, comprehensive care to support people with every level of spinal cord injury, including patients with additional injuries or those who need mechanical ventilation.



Care for a lifetime

At Mary Free Bed, your return to independence will be supported by bright, caring rehabilitation providers. When you become a patient at Mary Free Bed, you become a member of our family.

We’ll be here for as long as you need us. After you graduate from our inpatient program, we offer outpatient medical care and therapy, a peer support group and a host of other resources. If you use a wheelchair, we’ll share travel tips and the best places to find adaptive clothing, and we’ll introduce you to our amazing Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Program.

Hailey Naugle and Dr. Ho

Specialty accreditation

Both our inpatient and outpatient programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities International (CARF). This rigorous accreditation process is based on specific standards, ensuring the highest-quality rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries.

Inpatient Olivia Ancil Pt Sean Murphy
/ Your Experience

We provide an enriching environment designed to maximize your functional recovery.

You’ll discover therapy gyms near your private room and leading-edge resources to help you reach your highest level of independence.

Your inpatient treatment team will work with you and your family to create a rehabilitation plan that addresses your goals. Therapy is hard work, but it’s rewarding.


The duration and intensity of your therapy will depend on your individual needs and tolerance. Research shows the sooner you begin rehabilitation at an appropriate level of intensity, the better your outcome will be.

Patients typically do three or more hours of therapy at least five days a week, with therapeutic recreation activities, rest and visits with family and friends on the weekends.

Indego Exoskeleton


If you’re able, you can practice standing and walking with the aid of our extensive ceiling-mounted technology, such as the ZeroG and Tollos, or the Indego Exoskeleton, a robotic walking device. 

Olivia Ancil graduation walk


We encourage loved ones to participate in your therapy sessions. Your family is part of your team, too! After all, they’ll be helping you be as independent as possible after rehabilitation.

In the evenings, you can relax in your private room or visit with family, friends and other patients in one of our “destination locations,” such as our solarium with its cozy fireplace and rooftop terrace. Our Patient + Family Amenities page offers helpful information, including comfortable and affordable lodging for patients and families who live outside of West Michigan. 

/ Meet the Team

Meet Our Providers


Nathan Carlton, M.D.

Dr. Nathan Carlton headshot

Dr. Carlton specializes in neurological rehabilitation. He joined Mary Free Bed in 2023 after completing the Mary Free Bed Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency program. He provides both inpatient and outpatient care.


Sam Ho, M.D.

Dr. Sam Ho Mary Free Bed Physiatrist Employee Headshot

Dr. Ho specializes in the care of patients with spinal cord injuries. He’s a fellow of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and is a board-certified Diplomate of the American Board of Physical Medication and Rehabilitation. He’s been with Mary Free Bed since 1983.


Jonathan VandenBerg, D.O.

Dr. Jonathan VandenBerg Mary Free Bed Physiatrist employee headshot

Dr. VandenBerg specializes in the care of adults with spinal cord injuries and medically complex conditions. He works with inpatients in our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Intensive Medical Rehabilitation programs. He also sees patients in Mary Free Bed’s outpatient clinic.


Meet Your Team

Depending on your needs, you may see professionals from multiple disciplines:

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    Board-certified rehabilitation physicians, hand-selected for you and your condition(s).

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    Registered nurses with rehabilitation and wound care certification, as well as nurse technicians.

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    Occupational therapists to help you resume independence with daily activities, such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, doing laundry and grocery shopping.

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    Physical therapists to evaluate your strength, mobility and level of independence, then provide rehabilitation.

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    Psychologists focus on your emotional well-being, which is just as important as your physical condition. 

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    Registered dietitians to evaluate your nutritional needs and monitor your food intake.

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    Speech-language pathologists to help you, if necessary, with eating, swallowing, speaking, breathing and so on.

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    Recreational therapists to help you get back to doing things you enjoy or introduce you to new leisure activities.

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    A care manager who partners with you and your caregivers to help you adjust to your injury and prepare to return home.

/ Outpatient Experience

Mary Free Bed provides a full spectrum of care to maintain your health, including specialized therapy, home and community services and life-long follow-up care.

For example, our Spinal Cord Injury Clinic provides you with periodic rehabilitation checkups after you’ve graduated from our inpatient and outpatient therapy programs. You’ll participate in a thorough evaluation and assessment in a clinic setting. If you’ve received treatment at Mary Free Bed before, you’ll work with your same Mary Free Bed doctors and other specialists.

Peer support is also available from other people who have similar injuries and life circumstances. Activities with peers may include group meetings, one-on-one conversations or outings to sports events. Our patients tell us this peer support and camaraderie is an invaluable part of their rehabilitation.

We also host a monthly support group for people with spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injury Lokomat
/ Services

Our specialty services are designed to enhance and enrich your life. Your treatment team will work with you to coordinate the services and programs that will best serve you and your spinal injury. Here are just some of the services we offer:

/ FAQs

Below are questions we often hear from patients with spinal cord injuries and their families. Talk with your treatment team about specific questions or concerns.

What do “complete” and “incomplete” spinal cord injury mean?

A “complete” injury means that damage to the spinal cord is quite severe; at the time of diagnosis, there is no feeling or movement below the point of injury to the spinal cord.

An “incomplete” injury means there’s some feeling or movement below the point of injury, but how much function will return remains to be seen.

Will I ever walk again?

At the beginning of your rehabilitation, it can be difficult for your doctors to know whether walking is likely. Doctors base their prognosis upon their assessment of your injury and will provide their best guidance according to that assessment. They’ll look at the degree of damage to your spine, and the location of the damage along the spinal cord. People with more incomplete injuries lower on the spine typically regain more function and have a better chance of returning to some type of walking. 

Will I be able to go home?

Our goal is your goal—to get you back home. Some of our patients have mixed feelings about leaving the security of the hospital, but your team will help you prepare to go home throughout your rehabilitation stay. We focus on helping you find resources and develop the skills necessary for independent living.

Will I be able to return to work, school or the other activities I did before my injury?

Your ability to resume specific activities – whether it’s your job or a beloved hobby – will depend on the severity and complexity of your injury. However, returning to work, school and your favorite leisure activities is heartily encouraged, and your treatment team will work very closely with you, your employer and others to help you achieve your goals.  

Will I be able to have children?

Depending upon the severity of your spinal cord injury, sexual functioning may be affected. A spinal cord injury can affect sensation, sexual response and sexual performance. Although it can affect fertility, it doesn’t rule out the prospect of conceiving or having children.  

Since every injury affects each person differently, it’s important to discuss your concerns or questions with your physician and treatment team. Your physician may refer you to one of our consultants (gynecologist/obstetrician, urologist) who can provide additional information. 

Still have questions? Feel free to contact us.

The next step on your path to recovery.

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