Posted on September 19, 2023
Sky’s the Limit: Bruce’s Resilience after a Spinal Cord Injury
In in April 2023, life took an unexpected turn for Bruce Roger, 58, of Traverse City, Michigan. A fall at work left him with a concussion, orbital fracture and a spinal cord injury.
Following the accident, Bruce was diagnosed with quadriplegia. Fortunately, Bruce’s C3/C4 spinal cord injury was incomplete, which meant he still had some movement in his arms and legs.
He was transferred to the Mary Free Bed Adult Inpatient Rehabilitation program in Grand Rapids, where he would begin his SCI rehabilitation under the guidance of physiatrist Dr. Jonathan VandenBerg and a specialized spinal cord injury rehabilitation team.
“I tell people with incomplete injuries like Bruce that the sky is the limit,” said Dr. VandenBerg. “I’m really encouraged by Bruce’s trajectory.”
Inpatient SCI rehabilitation in Grand Rapids
Bruce’s inpatient rehabilitation program at Mary Free Bed wouldn’t be easy. He would require hard work and months of intensive therapy aimed at helping him regain mobility and independence.
“The realization of what my injury was hit me hard,” said Bruce. “I’d never had an injury like this, so I didn’t know what to expect or what was coming up.”
Bruce’s interdisciplinary team of SCI rehabilitation specialists – including nursing staff and recreational, occupational and physical therapists – worked alongside him. Together, they focused on goals like getting him comfortable with a motorized wheelchair and helping Bruce adapt to his new circumstances and improve his quality of life.
Taking it one step at a time.
“In physical therapy, I went from a wheelchair and trying to sit up, to standing up,” Bruce explained. “Then I was able to take a couple steps, use a walker, get a harness, and hook the harness to the ceiling to walk.”
With help from Tollos, a ceiling-mounted mobile lift gait and balance training system, Bruce could safely and confidently work on barrier-free walking and balance tasks.
“I walked 20 steps that first day in the harness. It gave me a lot of pride and a lot of confidence.”
Attitude is everything.
Accepting challenges with grit, grace and perseverance, Bruce’s tenacity and attitude quickly came to define his strong recovery journey.
“I’m clinically diagnosed as a quadriplegic, but I’m fighting through,” Bruce said. “I have great therapists. They work hard with me. I work hard for them. We’re able to see a lot of good progress.”
During his stay at Mary Free Bed, Bruce touched the hearts of hospital staff and patients alike. His friendly demeanor and eagerness to immerse himself in the Mary Free Bed community echoed the hospital’s mission to restore hope and freedom.
Beyond his therapy sessions, Bruce made it a point to attend the various gatherings organized by the hospital staff, fostering a sense of camaraderie among patients and caregivers alike.
Dr. Vandenberg emphasized the crucial role that attitude plays in the recovery process.
“Bruce’s perspective, gratitude and willingness to participate in different types of therapies were instrumental in achieving remarkable milestones during his rehabilitation journey.”
“The knowledge I’ve gained is that little motions have a large effect on your overall health,” Bruce said. “I’ve learned it’s all of the things I do – combined – that are going to help me get better.”
Graduating from Mary Free Bed
After eight weeks of intensive spinal cord injury therapy, Bruce graduated from his inpatient program at Mary Free Bed, ready to embrace life with adjustments.
“There are many milestones yet to accomplish,” he said. “But there are many that I have made. I feel blessed to be able to do them. I thought I’d be a lot further along than I am right now, but I’m realizing I’m further ahead than what my team had planned for me.”
While his path may have been altered by his injury, Bruce’s appreciation for others and determination to achieve the next milestone remains unwavering. He’s continuing to make gains in outpatient therapy with his sights set on getting back to work, playing hockey again, and enjoying life’s adventures ahead.
We’re thankful to Bruce for sharing his story and inpatient rehabilitation journey. He continues to remind us that the sky is the limit when you give it your all, one small step at a time.
**UPDATE** We recently caught up with Bruce following his graduation from Mary Free Bed. Watch the video to hear more about his return home and what’s on the horizon.
Ask For Mary: Spinal Cord Injury Rehab
The Mary Free Bed inpatient and outpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation 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.
- Learn more about our state-of-the-art facility and specialized spinal cord injury rehabilitation services.
- Read more about our leading spinal cord injury outcomes.
It’s your right to choose where you receive rehabilitation. Refer yourself to Mary Free Bed.