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Getting Back At It

Patient Ambassador makes major strides after a life-changing spinal cord injury.
Jesse walking stairs

Jesse practices walking up the steps.

During the summer of 2021, then 14-year-old Jesse crushed his C5 vertebrae and nearly drowned after diving into a 4-foot pool.

Before arriving at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia for spinal cord injury (SCI) intensive rehabilitation, he was told that he might never walk again. After much research, his family chose Shriners Children’s Philadelphia because of its reputation for comprehensive specialized care. They also felt strongly that having other young people around him would help Jesse’s morale and drive him to do his best during therapy.

Jesse spent the remainder of the summer in the Philadelphia hospital’s specialty spinal cord injury rehabilitation program. His care team created an inclusive plan that would build up his ability, confidence and independence.

“We cannot say enough positive things about Shriners Children’s Philadelphia,” said Jesse’s mother Stephanie. “They handled all of his physical needs, of course, but they also took care of everything else by supporting his mental and emotional health.”

Stephanie was also impressed by the different types of support she and her family received during Jesse’s stay and how well the staff prepared them to return home after he was discharged. “They made sure we had emotional support as well,” she said. “They allowed us to decorate his room and bring his favorite blankets and food from home. They trained us thoroughly in his care for when he came home and made sure we had all the equipment we needed.”

In less than two months, Jesse used forearm crutches to walk out of the hospital to his family’s car. This experience alone was far more than Jesse ever expected when he first came to the hospital. “When I first came to Shriners Children’s, I could barely move my left leg or toes, and I really didn’t think that I would walk again,” he said. “But the amazing staff at Shriners Children’s pushed me, believed in me and made me believe in myself. And after about six weeks, I could walk again.”

They handled all of his physical needs, of course, but they also took care of everything else by supporting his mental and emotional health.
Stephanie, Jesse's mother

Since being discharged from the program, Jesse returns to the hospital at times for follow-up appointments and has joined the hospital’s Patient Ambassador program. As a Patient Ambassador, he has been running to each opportunity to share his story! Most recently, Jesse shared his story in an amazing speech at the 8th Annual Walk for Love + 5K fundraising event. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“Just 75 days after breaking my neck, and after my parents were told I only had about a 40% chance of walking again, I was able to walk out of Shriners Hospital with a cane to assist me.

I never could have done any of that without my incredible therapists including Mallory, Jackie, Jess and Erin, just to name a few.

In February 2022, I returned to have a tendon transfer performed by Dr. Zlotolow to help me regain movement, strength and dexterity in my left arm and hand. Now I can play video games online with my friends, tie my shoes and use my computer.

Before Shriners, I didn’t think I could ever walk again. Now, I am doing all of my favorite things, like playing video games, playing cornhole and going on vacation with my family. I cannot thank the amazing staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children Philadelphia enough. Thank you very much.”

It is stories like Jesse’s that keep our patients, staff and donors inspired. Our research department continues to work tirelessly to help our SCI patients, and stories like Jesse’s is proof that the Shriners Children’s mission is thriving to help provide the most amazing care anywhere!

If you know of a patient who would like to join our Patient Ambassador program and share their care journey with others, please contact Joy Young for more information.

Learn more about the rehabilitation programs we have to offer.

Jesse with therapist

Jesse practices walking with physical therapist, Mallory.

next steps

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