The Center for Spinal Cord
They were enjoying the afternoon when a friend grabbed LeighAnn and picked her up. He lost his hold and dropped LeighAnn to the ground. Terrible pain shot through her body and she knew immediately that something was wrong – very wrong.
LeighAnn was rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center where doctors explained that she had sustained a spinal cord injury and would be paralyzed from her waist down. Her family began to explore treatment options and found a promising procedure being trialed in Israel. Two weeks after her injury, she underwent the experimental surgery and, during the next month, saw a small improvement in her core strength. But according to LeighAnn, it wasn't until she came to Kessler's Center for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation that her real progress began.
She describes her months of rehabilitation as intense, aggressive and exhausting. She worked hard, but her optimism never wavered. She embraced all that she could do – and never dwelled on what she could not. And she came to understand that sometimes, for no apparent reason, bad things do happen to good people.
Today, however, good things are happening to LeighAnn. She serves as a research assistant on Kessler's spinal cord injury team and has received state recognition for her work. She's also pursuing a degree in healthcare administration, competing in wheelchair racing program and recently took up sled hockey. She's active, independent and, most importantly, looking forward to what life ahead will bring.
Triathletes are put to the test every time they lace up their sneakers, jump on a bike or dive into the water. They train with a singular focus to excel at their sport. Certainly there are obstacles to overcome, but none like those that Kevin was about to face. While training for an upcoming race, his bicycle suddenly stopped and Kevin flew over the handlebars. He landed in a major metropolitan area hospital with broken ribs, a punctured lung and a spinal cord injury.
Two weeks later he was transferred to Kessler's Center for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. Kevin, who had battled cancer just a few years before, now had a new foe: paraplegia. He found the fight to be far more difficult than he could have imagined. It took getting used to being in a different body, to doing things differently than before. It took time, but with the help of his doctors, nurses and therapists, he realized life was about what he could do, not what he could not. And no one helped him to understand this more than his wife and his children.
In fact, it was his daughter who reasoned that injuries like this don't happen to people who can't handle them. And in her eyes, Kevin is someone who can handle anything. Several months ago, Kevin began training on a special cycle in hopes of competing again. He says it's a lot more complicated than it looks – just getting in and out of the bike is a challenge. But he knows that every victory, large or small, is a meaningful one.