His life changed in an instant. David Willoughby stepped into a shallow spot while mowing grass and hurt his back. After weeks of wrestling with the pain and the onset of numbness, he went to Eastside Medical Center, his first time in a hospital in 45 years. Scans revealed he had a ruptured disk; a spine injury so severe that he needed immediate surgery.
He awoke from surgery to the diagnosis of “spaghetti legs.” David had lost the use of his legs and was moved to the hospital”s inpatient rehabilitation unit to begin therapy on his upper body to prepare him for life in a wheelchair.
For 33 days, he participated in therapy and even asked for “homework.” A nurse recognized his willpower and told him that he could use his hands to keep his legs moving – that action would be the only chance of bringing the feeling back to his legs.
With determined ingenuity, David fashioned a sling from sheets that he put under each leg to lift them, as if walking while seated. Before long, his therapist gave him equipment that he used to accomplish the same thing. He never gave up, doing everything and more to walk again.
Upon discharge, David could drag his feet a few steps. “Had I not had the encouragement while in the hospital, I”d still be in wheelchair,”# he says. Exercising at home, his gait has improved somewhat. Even after losing 70 percent of his mobility, a year later David is walking, having officially retired his wheelchair, walker and cane. His doctor has dubbed David, “the best of the worst,” or the worst prognosis making the best progress.
“I walk like a drunk duck with weak knees,”# he jokingly says, but in all seriousness confides that the team at Eastside Medical Center, “Gave my life back to me.”#