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By Doc Watson
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | After a tragic snowmobile accident on Jan. 8 left Rodney Dunham with a serious spinal cord injury, he has made amazing progress thanks to revolutionary therapy, according to his doctors and therapists.
Agreeing with the old adage that things can always be worse, Dunham is thankful that his injury was not as bad as it could have been. In one of the few times the word “incomplete” is a good thing, “incomplete paralysis” is the term used to describe partial damage to the spinal cord, which results in some motor and sensory function remaining. People with an incomplete injury might have feeling, but little or no movement.
It was in the Craig Hospital in Denver—a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital that exclusively specializes in the neuro-rehabilitation and research of patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)—that Dunham received his innovative therapy.
It was also at Craig Hospital that Dunham’s therapists thought he would be a good candidate for the NRN (NeuroRecovery Network), which is a part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Actor/director/activist Christopher Reeve was rendered a quadriplegic in 1995 from an equestrian accident and started his foundation in 1998 to promote research on spinal cord injuries.
In addition to many different exercises, stretches, lifting weights and more, the primary therapy Dunham experienced was the TheraStride, a $100,000 ground-breaking weight-bearing rehab system. It combines a treadmill and support harness system with sophisticated computer software that measures variables of gait training, including: speed, weight supported, amount of time walked and amount of assistance needed while walking. This state-of-the-art machine helps patients learn how to walk again.
For Dunham the hardest part of his ordeal has been “depending upon other people most of the time. You can’t just get up and go and do what you want, be by yourself on a horse out in the woods.”
But something else he learned from his always positive, ever upbeat therapists was to be hopeful. He is now walking with the help of a walker and with crutches as well. We are hopeful with him that he will be back on a horse real soon.