Hope After Spinal Cord Injury
Genesis offers accredited spinal cord injury care
Doug Taylor and his daughter have a saying: “Life can change in 45 minutes.”
In that short time, they left their home in Davenport; drove to a favorite hunting area; climbed a tree to bow hunt; and then, with one muddy misstep, saw life as they knew it come crashing down.
High in the trees, Doug Taylor was climbing from one deer stand to another when his foot slipped. He fell 18 feet, landing with full impact on his face and upper chest. He broke two vertebrate in his neck and two vertebrate in his back.
Fully conscious after the fall, he managed to roll onto his back only to realize he couldn’t feel anything from his chest down. He could move his hands and arms, but that wouldn’t last for long.
The day was Oct. 19, 2012. Dad and daughter witnessed a life forever changed.
“After the fall, I knew something was seriously wrong,” says Taylor, 37, of Davenport. “I told my 15-year-old daughter Kayla to lay my head in her lap, and she grabbed my cell phone and called my brother. We hunt on the same property, so he knew where to find me so far back in the woods. He was able to get paramedics in 4-wheel drive vehicles out to me.”
Taylor doesn’t remember much after that, including the air ambulance ride to Iowa City and the 15-hour neurosurgery to mend his broken neck and back. “The doctors knew walking again wasn’t an option; the goal was to keep the function in my arms and hands,” he says.
It would be days before Taylor, an electrician accustomed to climbing heights and who had hunted from deer stands since he was a teenager, realized the extent of his injury.
Today, Doug Taylor uses an electric wheelchair to get around. He is paralyzed from the chest down and has only limited use of his arms and hands.
After spending three months in hospitals, he is living at home with his wife and two daughters. He undergoes intensive rehabilitation three times a week at the Genesis Day Rehabilitation Program, a program that fills the gap between inpatient and outpatient therapy. The program is the first in Iowa and the only one in the Quad Cities.
He meets life’s new challenges head-on. He has no choice, he says.
With the help of physical and occupational therapy, he is working to increase his upper body strength and regain as much movement in his arms and hands as he can. One day, he hopes to be able to transfer himself from the wheelchair to the bed and dress himself without assistance. He wants to use a self-propelled wheelchair and be able to hunt and shoot with a bow again.
“Throughout all this, I’ve never ever let myself say I was giving up. That’s not an option for me,” he says. “Even before the accident, I’ve always had the mentality that ‘Nothing is ever going to beat me.’“
That attitude has served him well. After spending three weeks in Iowa City, little of which he remembers, he was transferred to Select Specialty Hospital-Quad Cities to be weaned off the ventilator. There, the reality of the hurdles ahead weighed in on him.
“A couple of times, I just kind of broke down,” he recalls. “I didn’t think life was over, but I knew I had a lot of huge challenges ahead of me.”
In late November, he was transferred to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, where “the real work began,” he says.
The QCs only spinal cord injury treatment team
While her husband was in Iowa City, Nicki Taylor was relieved to learn that the largest physical medicine and rehabilitation program in Iowa was close to home at Genesis, West Central Park in Davenport.
Better yet, the Genesis Spinal Cord System of Care Program is the only CARF-accredited program in Iowa and the Quad Cities, with outpatient and inpatient programs.
“When she learned about the Genesis program, it lifted a huge weight from my family’s shoulders,” Doug Taylor says. “I was only going to be 5 minutes from home and I would have my biggest support system close by.”
For more than 30 years, Genesis has provided comprehensive spinal cord injury treatment and has developed the only spinal cord injury treatment team in the Quad Cities.
For five days a week, several hours each day, Doug Taylor would undergo physical, occupational and recreational therapy.
With his therapists’ help and his determined attitude, he would re-learn tasks he had previously done without thinking, such as being able to control his upper body, sit unassisted or roll himself over.
“If you’ve ever watched babies just learning how to grab things or reach out to touch their toes, that’s a little like how I felt. I had to re-learn everything and literally had to will myself to try and make my hands and arms move again. Only unlike a baby, I had memories of how easy it used to be.”
Today, he lives at home with his wife and two daughters, Kayla, 15, who witnessed his accident and called for help, and Madison, 12, who has kept the family positive by reminding them that he’s still the same person, even though he can’t walk or use his arms like he once did.
He continues to make progress in the Genesis Day Rehabilitation Program. The program is for people who can live at home but still need intensive therapies and require nursing care and physician oversight.
“To me, it doesn’t matter how long I’m in therapy, as long as I keep making improvements,” he concludes. “The spinal cord injury team at Genesis is just phenomenal; they’re the greatest people I’ve ever met. They have given me and my wife amazing education, support and hope.”