It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt
Hi, My name is Steven Mitchell and I would like to explain my story and how far I have come to date and why I refuse to give up. On May 19, 2009, while on vacation in the Dominican Republic I was paralyzed from a diving accident. I broke my neck in the c6, c7 area. I was paralyzed from the neck down. I remember the last moments as I was drowning, thinking to myself I’m not going to be able to tell my twin brother that I love him or anyone else.
As I started to let go and die, my twin brother finally pulled me up out of the water. At this time he was holding me up and treading water trying to keep himself from drowning. By the time a boat got to us and we had to switch to another boat the damage to my spinal cord was getting worse. I was taken five hours to the capitol of Dominican Republic which is Santo Domingo. My twin brother was told that I only had a ten percent chance of surviving.
I survived, the next problem was how to get me back to the United States alive. The only way was that i needed to have surgery to have the bone fragments removed from my spinal cord and then rods and pins put in to stabilize my spinal cord otherwise I would not have survived the air ambulance flight home. After surgery and a week later I was flown back to the United States to Fairfax Virginia to Inova Hospital.
I was told here that I needed another surgery to have the work re-done. I remember at this point I couldn’t move anything but I could open and close my hands slightly. Knowing now what I do, I wouldn’t have had the second surgery. After that surgery, my family was told I would be lucky to survive 24 hours because of the trauma to my spinal cord and throwing a blood clot. That 24 hours my heart stopped and started and stopped again.
As crazy as this sounds I remember leaving my body only to wake up on a ventilator and completely paralyzed. My mother was told that I would never walk again and I would be lucky to ever breathe on my own. I needed to be flown to the Shepard Center in Atlanta Georgia to be weened off the ventilator. So I get to Atlanta where I would start my physical therapy, I was there for four months. Learning to breathe again on my own was complete hell!
I fought and I still am, I was told I would never walk again and be in a power chair for the rest of my life. It amazes me how these people think that they are god and can honestly look at someone and say what the outcome will be. My outcome is between me and God, not the doctor! I made a promise to myself that I will fight as long as it takes to recover and walk again that very day!
To sum this part of the story up in short, four months later I left breathing on my own and I was in a manual wheel chair . Now it was time to come back home to Spotsylvania Virginia. Now this where the real work began. I started to research stem cell therapy and alternative healing methods. I visited several hospitals, doctors, made phone calls only to be shunned and told that we can’t do it here and it’s dangerous.
I was denied any help with various walking devices because they said the only way to qualify to use them I had to have some movement in my legs or feet. I made another promise to myself that I was going to heal myself no matter how! I kept researching stem cells and anything that could help. I had my father and brothers build me tilt tables so I could start standing up and that took a year just to be able to stand up without passing out.
Next I went on ebay to get a motorized bicycle so i could exercise my legs and I still do everyday. I started rolling over back and fourth on the floor to exercise my body and recover feeling and motor function. I spent every waking moment working on my tilt table, moving around on the floor, exercising , researching, praying, you name it! Finally, my first big breakthrough came at around 2011.
After my work, family, and community raised enough money, it was time for stem cell treatment and I had made up my mind as to where I wanted to go for this procedure. I flew to Lisbon Portugal for stem cell surgery. The scientist and pioneer who led this study and procedure was Dr. Carlos Lima. He and his team took tissue from the very top of my nose or the bulb of the brain( olfactory mucosa ) and used the tissue to re-attach or bridge the broken parts of my spinal cord.
It was a hard and long surgery and the first five days after that surgery were very painful, but I’m glad I did it. When I woke up, I immediately started moving my left hand pinky finger, I could feel temperature. Before the surgery, I felt cold most of the time, but because my nervous system was compromised I could be outside in the summer and not feel the heat. All that started to change after the surgery in Portugal.
I was there for ten days, Dr. Lima spent most of every day with me. He was an amazing man and an even more amazing doctor! He told me what I needed to do after I got home to begin working on walking. He told me it doesn’t matter if you can’t move your legs, what matters is to get up and have someone help you move them. If you want to walk then you must practice walking, period. It is about retraining your legs to remember how to walk.
To simplify that story I came back home with what to do, and if I could afford it, to go to Detroit for his specialized training. I couldn’t afford the travel and the additional therapy, though. I was out of money. As I took those few weeks to heal from surgery, I watched what was done at Detroit for therapy on youtube. My father is a builder so I had him build me a body brace that could hold me tight, but my legs could move at the same time. He also built a special walker which is close to the ones used at the “walk the line” rehab in Detroit.
I soon realized, after my first time being stood up without the tilt table, wearing this body brace, I had a sense of balance and the stamina to hold myself for a few minutes. It was a huge milestone, so I began to try to walk wearing the body brace, I had my brothers move my legs for me as I tried to walk. It was not pretty, it was hard and I worked on this the next two years. Dr Carlos Lima died in 2012, I was sad, I lost a friend and a doctor who believed in me and told me ” keep all things moving forward Steven”. I promised him I would be his best patient and carry on his work.
Since then I raised more money to try experimental treatments and that helped, but the money ran out again. As of today I’m still fighting, I do anything and everything I can to continue to heal. I eat, sleep and breathe recovery! Am I walking yet? No, but I’m getting closer and closer. I’m starting to wiggle my fingers on both hands. I have regained full use of my arms, I’m regaining abdominal function more and more. I’m regaining bladder function, no more self cathing, I’m regaining bowel function even faster.
I’m crawling like a zombie, it’s more of a low crawl /half drag kind of thing but I’m moving! I no longer need a body brace and special walker. I can almost stand up on my own with some help using a regular walker. As of yesterday I did 200 squats in an hour an half! of coarse I need my brother to press on my knees a little to help me as I start to stand but I’m doing it! My feet sweat now and I’m starting to sweat more all over my body, again I was told that I wouldn’t sweat past the level of injury.
I’m feeling more and more, I’m moving more and more. To date I do 100 squats per day and no less than 20 hours a week on my exercise bike! It is hard work and it’s not pretty and very difficult but I’m relentless! The fight rages on! I will not back down and I ABSOLUTELY refuse to quit, Come hell or high water I will cross the finish line standing up and WALKING !
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”Winston Churchill
” I’M A FIGHTER AND THAT’S WHAT FIGHTERS DO…..FIGHTERS, FIGHT ! “
~ STEVEN MITCHELL