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Success Stories

The Recovery Project is proud of the success of many of our current and previous clients. We have helped people with a variety of different programs, including physical therapy and occupational therapy, with many different medical focuses. These client stories represent just a small sampling of the personalized therapy programs we create for clients.

Charlie Parkhill

Charlie Parkhill is the co-founder and co-CEO of The Recovery Project. Charlie was injured in an ocean wave accident while vacationing with his wife in 1998, suffering an incomplete SCI at C -4/5. Given the typical prognosis of “you will never walk” and “will probably be fed through a feeding tube” he decided to put everything aside and vowed to beat “this thing”.

As he started outpatient physical therapy (PT), the most fortunate event of his post injury life would be meeting Polly Swingle, and she would become his PT, giving him all he wanted and could take, introducing a new, innovated, highly intensive program. Prior to that time, highly intensive, ongoing rigorous therapy for individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) was rare, if existent at all; in fact it was frowned upon and considered a waste of time.   The program Polly developed was for three hours a day, five days a week. Starting with a few steps harnessed (and unweighted) he took a couple steps on a treadmill. Within a few months they were doing 40 minutes on the treadmill, without harness or unweighting. Continuing with the protocols developed by Polly and implemented by The Recovery Project’s PTs, a chronology of Charlie’s progress follows: 1999: Begins walking with standard walker 2001: Walks ¼ mile with standard walker 2006: Takes first two unassisted steps documented in a November 8, 2006 Detroit Free Press article entitled “NO RETREAT NO GIVING IN” 2008: Takes 100 unassisted steps 2010: First 100 foot (unassisted) walk 2013-2014: This was his first year without a personal best, so Charlie added extra leg exercises and increased workouts to six days a week. As a result, one of the last walks of 2014, he again neared the 100 feet mark, a portion of which can be seen here With a goal to never have a maintenance or plateau year, he has added a one hour/week session on TRP’s RT300 electrical stim cycle, leading to some of the best unassisted walking in his life. However, Charlie does not measure his overall rehabilitation by the distance walked or physical achievements, but by its effect on overall quality of life. “I wanted to walk and I do. Far greater are the rewards of aiming for great heights, and being rewarded by the successes along the way - as my friend and fellow SCI Tracy Stone reminds us, “If you shoot for the stars you may reach the moon”. I count among the successes: excellent health (no hospital days for SCI related issues, no skin break down) and the stamina and ability to contribute to TRP, participate on advisory boards of the University of Michigan Model Spinal Cord System and Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Association. Not the least of all, presiding over the Mary and Charles A. Parkhill Foundation for Spinal Cord Rehabilitation, where with Mary, Polly and an energetic, committed and supportive board, we have been able to provide rehabilitative therapies throughout the country for individuals with SCI and TBI who otherwise would not have the resources to reach for their stars. “ When Polly and Charlie started TRP, “we wanted to see what could happen if an individual with an SCI could sustain a high level of intensive therapy over an extended period of time. If so, with what outcome?” The journey is not complete, but after 17 years, the results speak for themselves. Click here to see a recent video of Charlie walking.
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Mike Kiernan

Mike Kiernan’s life changed drastically in 2015 when he fell 25 feet through his barn roof, suffering a thoracic level spinal cord injury and multiple pelvic fractures when he landed on the concrete floor below. After the accident, Mike attended physical therapy at another facility. At the completion of the program, therapists said he had reached his full potential of recovery.

Determined to persevere and continue his recovery, Mike came to The Recovery Project with the goals of walking safely and keeping up with his young children, driving again, and ultimately going back to work.

After an initial baseline assessment, The Recovery Project created a personalized plan for Mike to help him reach those goals. He attends therapy sessions three days a week, practicing gait training with the use of functional electrical stimulation and the RT600 stepper.

Before coming to The Recovery Project, Mike was able to walk 90 feet in four minutes with the assistance of a walker. Now, after one year of work with The Recovery Project, Mike has tripled his results. He can walk 280 feet with his walker in six minutes, and is also able to walk with the assistance of Lofstrand crutches. He can also drive again, making it easier for him around independently.

Mike’s recovery can be credited to his personal drive for improvement and the advanced technology available at The Recovery Project. When other facilities said there was nothing they could do, The Recovery Project saw an opportunity to change a life.

With the encouragement of his personal trainers, Mike continues to meet improvement goals. Now, he hopes to achieve a status where he can perform daily tasks without requiring a wheelchair. Soon he will transfer to The Recovery Project’s Lansing location, making it easier for him to receive therapy to continue his journey with The Recovery Project and meet these goals.
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Scarlet

Four-year-old Scarlet was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare genetic disorder impacting her ability to build muscle strength. As a type-two SMA patient, she had very little function of her legs, arms and hands. She had poor core and head control, and could only sit up if propped against something or someone and was completely dependent on family members for feedings and changings.

Scarlet began receiving therapy treatments at The Recovery Project in March 2017. At the same time, she was finishing her load dose of a radical new treatment for SMA called Spinraza—becoming the first person in Michigan to receive the newly-approved drug. Between her work at The Recovery Project and Spinraza, Scarlet has experienced major improvements.

In just four months, Scarlet has significantly improved her head control and is able to sit up independently without any support. She has gained strength and function in her arms, and can dangle and kick her legs—something she was previously unable to do. Her therapists have also been using electrical stimulation and weight bearing activities to continue improving her muscle strength, and she has even been practicing brushing her hair and feeding herself. The team at The Recovery Project also helped set Scarlet up with a home therapy program so she can continue her exercises even when she’s not at the clinic.

According to the makers of Spinraza, the types of results Scarlet has experienced at four months typically take six months or more to achieve. But thanks to the work of The Recovery Project coupled with this amazing new treatment, Scarlet has made significant progress as she, her family and the therapists at The Recovery Project continue to work together to help Scarlet achieve her goals.

“They are the most amazing group of people,” said Scarlet’s mom Hilary of the team at The Recovery Project. “They are so positive and everyone knows our names. They have the best high-end equipment—it’s the best therapy we’ve ever had."

If you’re interested in keeping up with Scarlet’s progress, follow Scarlet’s Smile on Facebook.
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Karen Edmonds

The onset of Transverse Myelitis, a severe neurological disorder where inflammation of both sides of the spinal cord occurs, can be sudden. For Karen Edmonds, it happened during a trip to Michigan to visit family, and the disease quickly took away her ability to walk.

Karen completed standard physical therapy in Michigan until she was able to return to her hometown of Forest City, North Carolina, where she continued to do the same basic therapy. Growing frustrated with a lack of progress, Karen returned to Michigan in 2016 and was referred to The Recovery Project by a well-known local physician.

She quickly found out that the therapists you work with make a big difference in results achieved.

“(The Recovery Project’s) therapists were unlike any I’ve encountered before. They are open, honest and listen to what you have to say,” Karen said. “They gave me courage and the ability to work toward improvement, providing hope that this will help, and it did!”

At The Recovery Project, Karen engaged in a personalized, high intensity therapy program twice a week for two hours a day.

“The education that was incorporated, going over each muscle, what it was called and why they were going to strengthen it, truly kept it eye level for me to understand what was going on throughout the process. It really speaks to the level of service they provide at this facility.”

Prior to coming to The Recovery Project, Karen was unable to move her left leg forward. Thanks to the treatment received at The Recovery Project at the hands of the clinic’s caring, highly involved therapists, she is now able to walk on her own.

“I’ve completed physical therapy sessions at other locations both in Michigan and North Carolina, and none have matched the level of quality, high-intensity therapy this staff performs,” Karen said. “My progress has been incredible. At the beginning I was unable to move my legs—especially my left leg—due to the quick progression of the Transverse Myelitis. Now I’m able to move my leg forward and bring it up on my own, allowing me to take steps and giving me the ability to get out of my wheelchair. I attribute this to the work I did with the therapists at The Recovery Project and the courage they gave me to try again each day. I'm confident I am 100 percent better than if I would have stayed home and done regular therapy in North Carolina.

“My travel to Michigan to work with The Recovery Project was worth every mile.”
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Joe Hallman

In August 2015, Joe Hallman was golfing with his son when he bent down to put a ball on the tee and experienced excruciating neck pain. He had his son drive him to the emergency room and, after multiple tests were taken, he was informed that he had a fractured neck caused by cancer. Joe was diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a cancer that can result in bone weakening and destruction.

This diagnosis was the beginning of a whirlwind journey for Joe, including radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and a C1-C7 cervical fusion surgery in his neck—which was followed by another surgery for an infection that developed from the initial surgery. Complications also arose during treatment, including digestive problems, a bacterial infection, pneumonia, a blood clot in his leg, and, at one point, Joe died and was brought back to life. At his lowest point, Joe’s body had deteriorated in such a way that he required total life support and tracheotomy.

But the former physical therapy teacher fought hard to improve. He moved from the hospital into a nursing home, and then a group home where his case manager referred him to The Recovery Project. Driven by the idea of teaching again, playing golf and walking without an assisted device, Joe ultimately wants to live independently and make a full recovery—a goal his therapists at The Recovery Project feel is absolutely attainable.

At The Recovery Project, Joe used a functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike to advance his strength and motor function, and a body-weight supported treadmill to improve gait quality and endurance. Stretching, strength and balance training were also key components of his workouts.

Over the course of his time at The Recovery Project, Joe’s progress has been incredible. At his initial evaluation in August 2016, he could only walk 553 feet with a wheeled walker in six minutes. By March 2017, he had progressed to 1337 feet. Joe is able to walk unassisted when supervised by his therapists and can perform high-level balance activities like dribbling a basketball again and even swinging a golf club!
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Scott M

When Scott M began occupational therapy at The Recovery Project in July 2016, he was only being fed through a J tube, which had been in place since March 2015 when he was admitted to the hospital for aspiration, and had completely stopped eating solid foods. He also coughed frequently and had to carry a cup with him at all times to cough into. In fact, because of how he presented, he was unable to complete portions of his initial evaluation due to safety precautions.

This didn't stop Scott from immediately setting to work on an intense occupational therapy regimen at The Recovery Project with a goal to begin eating foods orally. His therapists attended a course on the newest technology for swallowing therapy called the VitalStim Plus, a device that The Recovery Project ended up purchasing—making it the first clinic in metro Detroit to own the machine.
Since beginning his therapy, Scott has progressed amazingly. Thanks to intensive swallowing therapy at The Recovery Project paired with his commitment to a comprehensive home exercise program, Scott no longer wakes up coughing and doesn’t have to carry a cup with him anymore. Not only has he started eating pureed foods again nearly three months after beginning his program at The Recovery Project—his voice has gotten stronger since the VitalStim also has an effect on the vocal folds. His nurses consistently comment on how much easier it is to understand Scott now!
“(Scott) is a great example of someone who has achieved great results due to his dedication to his home exercise program paired with an intensive therapy program.” — Jordyn Funk, Scott’s occupational therapist at The Recovery Project
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Tracey Stone

Tracey Stone often feels like Norm from Cheers when he’s at The Recovery Project.

“Everyone knows your name,” he says.

Since 2011, Tracey has attended twice-weekly sessions at The Recovery Project, focusing most of his efforts working the boxing mitts, or using the legs or arms cycles, to make sure his muscles stay loose and don’t get contracted.

Confined to a power chair, Tracey couldn’t put on his own shirt when he began his therapy at The Recovery Project. But his work with the facility’s industry-leading therapists helped make him stronger to the point that he can not only put on his own shirts, but has set a goal to propel himself in a manual wheelchair—one that seems more than achievable given his progress since beginning at The Recovery Center. Tracey has experienced successes beyond physical improvements, too. His sessions at The Recovery Project enhanced his confidence and helped make him comfortable going places and trying new things. In fact, Tracey bowls once a week and plans to begin doing archery. “I’ve been to many rehab centers,” Tracey says. “Not to short change any of them, but there’s a certain level of care that you receive at The Recovery Project that you won’t receive anywhere else.”
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Larissa

Larissa has been participating in The Recovery Project’s supported fitness program for more than three years. During her semi-annual visit to the Michigan Institute for Neurological Disorders (MIND) clinic, Larissa met The Recovery Project co-CEO and lead physical therapist Polly Swingle, a regular practitioner at the clinic, for the first time. When Larissa’s doctor and Polly suggested she attend physical therapy at The Recovery Project, she decided to give it a try.

“When I first started, I couldn’t even lift my arm,” Larissa said. “The staff was friendly and helpful, and set up a customized exercise regime for me. I started out with one pound weights, but today I am up to three, four and five pound weights doing the same exercises I started with.” In addition to visiting The Recovery Project once a week, Larissa also performs her trainer-designed exercises at home whenever possible to maintain her strength and achieved fitness level. “It energizes me, and my gait has gotten stronger,” she continued. “I’m doing well there, and I like it.”
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Carlos

When asked how coming to The Recovery Project has helped him reach his goals, Carlos laughed kindly and said, “It’s everything. They’ve done so much, it’s hard to really simplify it. But I’ll try!”

Carlos was paralyzed and confined to a motorized wheelchair in November 2013. In the year and a half since his injury, which has primarily been spent with The Recovery Project, Carlos has achieved incredible results. It took him one month to get to a mechanical wheelchair, a month and a half after that to progress to a walker, and two months later he was using a cane. Today, he is working on trying to run.

“The Recovery Project really works with you, and they build a program completely customized to YOU,” Carlos said. “At the place I went to before, they stopped a lot of things I wanted to do, they didn’t understand my concept of training. I’d been working out, I was in the military. For me, when you make things harder, I enjoy it more and perform better. The other facility didn’t understand that, they wanted to stick to their outlined programs, so they stopped me from doing some things I wanted to do.”

“At The Recovery Project, they’re more for you than for any set program. They’ve worked with me to develop my own program, which I love, and they don’t hold me back,” he continued.

Carlos currently participates in physical and occupational therapy, as well as athletic training, four to five days per week. In addition to enjoying the customized, high-intensity programs, Carlos loves working with The Recovery Project team and how engaging and effective they make each session.

“The staff is so encouraging, everyone is in it to win it. All of the therapists know me, and I know them, whether or not they’re actually the therapist I’m working with at the time,” said Carlos. “Even when I’m working out with one therapist, others will come by to suggest different things to try. At other places, people stick to just their client, but at The Recovery Project, it’s an “OUR client” mentality, not just one person’s client.”

This integrated, connected approach has also helped to maximize his time spent there. He shared that with other rehab facilities, time would have to be spent each appointment by clinicians asking what he had been working on, and what he had tried already. “Here though,” he says, “everyone knows what you’re working on because you’re in the same space, and it keeps me on pace.”

Lastly, Carlos loves the open, fun and encouraging atmosphere at the clinics.

“I’ve built some nice friendships with other clients at The Recovery Project, and it’s just a great place to be. It’s more fast-paced, up-tempo, fun and funny,” he concluded. “I enjoy myself there, and I like to go.”
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Tom Watkins

Tom Watkins, a spinal cord client, first started participating in high-intensity physical therapy at The Recovery Project two years ago after a hip replacement. After his surgery, Tom was seeking a rehab clinic closer to his Macomb County home, and decided to give The Recovery Project a try after receiving recommendations from another person with a spinal cord injury. The decision has been life changing.

“I tell everyone that The Recovery Project stands apart because of the one-on-one therapy and the compassionate staff,” said Tom. “The one-on-one therapy with a physical therapist is probably the best thing I’ve ever had out of any place I’ve gone. Anywhere else, the therapist spends 15 to 20 minutes with you during the visit, and that’s it. But not here.”

Tom is currently participating in three days of physical therapy, and recently began therapeutic massage. In addition, he plans to start therapeutic yoga as well. As a result of his ongoing high-intensity therapy with The Recovery Project, Tom has experienced significant improvement in his core strength and his balance.

“The staff has a lot of passion and compassion for clients in comparison to anywhere else I’ve gone,” he continued. “They are always suggesting new treatment strategies, and they aren’t just going through the motions. You can tell they really want to make things better for you.”
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Leo Lennox

Leo Lennox has been a client with The Recovery Project since 2008, after sustaining a C7 incomplete spinal cord injury in a four-wheeler accident. He received a strong recommendation from his case manager, and decided to give the facility a try.

Leo participates in physical therapy twice per week with Dave Taylor at the East side clinic, and has seen positive results including increased strength and range of motion.

“I have had a very good experience,” said Leo. “I would recommend it to anyone.”
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Brianna Vitale

When Brianna was six-years-old, she sustained a severe spinal cord injury in a car accident that left her a full quadriplegic with limited head and neck movement, and paralysis in her arms, torso and legs. Brianna began attending physical therapy at The Recovery Project in July 2006, and now at 12 years old, she visits the clinic two to three times per week.

Throughout the years, Brianna and Tim have tried a vast variety of techniques and protocol, such as electrical stimulation, movement control, balancing, positioning, standing with support, weight bearing and more. As a result of the continued practice, Brianna has built up enough muscle to hold her head up on her own and to control her electric wheelchair.
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Darrell Mason

Darrell came to The Recovery Project in a wheelchair after sustaining injuries to his head, neck, spine and ribs when he fell through the 20-foot-high ceiling of a house he was working on as part of his property preservation business. Accustomed to an active lifestyle, Darrell was suddenly motionless from the waist down. After undergoing five surgeries in five months, Darrell chose The Recovery Project for his high-intensity outpatient physical therapy.

The Recovery Project’s therapist team developed a customized high-intensity therapy program based on Darrell’s unique physical abilities, goals to move and live independently again, and his energetic commitment to his recovery. Through utilizing methods such as functional electrical stimulation and the LiteGait system to increase blood flow and rebuild muscle strength, as well as much movement as possible, Darrell has regained incredible amounts of core strength and is making great strides toward independence—he is even driving on his own now.
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Tomicko Byers

Tomicko Byers came to The Recovery Project with a C-5 quadriplegia incomplete spinal cord injury, requiring minimal assistance with basic transfers, and maximum assistance with floor transfers. He had difficulty moving his legs at all, could not walk, and had poor sitting and standing balance.

As a result of his physical therapy with The Recovery Project, Tomicko is independent in basic transfers, and requires only stand-by assistance with floor transfers. He is walking, un-weighted on a treadmill for 30 minutes, and ambulating short distances with a rolling walker. He has good sitting balance, and better than fair standing balance. He is continually increasing functional movement in his legs through intense upper and lower extremity and trunk exercises.
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