Step by step: Once paralyzed, Moline man beats the odds

Posted Online: Jan. 07, 2013, 9:25 am
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By Laura Anderson Shaw,
With a resistance band around his waist, 23-year-old Mike Faust pulled physical therapist assistant Danielle Cook-Roberts around the physical therapy room atGenesis Physical Rehabilitation at Maplecrest in Bettendorf.

It was hard to believe less than a year ago, the Moline man was told he would never walk again after he injured his spinal cord by simply tripping over a rug.

Mr. Faust said he was out with a friend last March, and they decided to visit another friend at a bar in The District of Rock Island. He walked through the door, tripped on a rugand fell "on my face," he said.

But"when I went to get up...I couldn't feel anything."

He was laying on his stomach, he said, and had mostly landed on his hip. He had a bit of back pain, but not much. He tried to push himself up, but couldn't. Finally, he was able to roll himself over onto his back.

He waited for the numbness to go away, and when it didn't, his friends called 9-1-1. An ambulance took him to a local hospital for X-rays, an MRI and a CT scan.

By then, the pain was "brutal."

Because of the severity of his back injury and his size – he's 6 feet 8 inches tall and built like a lineman – Mr. Faust said surgeons in the Quad-Cities wouldn't touch him, so he was airlifted to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

The doctors there said he would never walk again.

"You don't believe them," Mr. Faust said. "I'm 23-years-old. I've played sports my whole life... I couldn't stand (spending) the rest of my life in a wheelchair."

After surgery the next morning, Mr. Faust said he learned a few of the discs in his mid-back were pressing into his spinal cord.

The surgeon was able to relieve the pressure (with a procedure called a decompression laminectomy). Although his spinal cord was not severed, the surgeon maintained he would never walk, Mr. Faust said.

But about 12 hours after surgery, Mr. Faust said he was able to move his toes on his left foot.

"It was crazy," he said.

He spent nine weeks in Peoria, eight of them in therapy, which he said pushed him every day.

No matter how difficult or frustrating it was, "I had to get through it," he said. "I had to get back to my normal life."

While he was in Peoria, his mother, Kim Faust, had construction work completed on the house to add a ramp and widen the doorways for his wheelchair.

By the time he left Peoria, he could stand.

When he started therapy in May at Genesis Physical Rehabilitation at Maplecrest, his physical therapist Patty Darland suggested he use some of the equipment and try to walk, he said.

"So I pushed myself up and took a few steps," Mr. Faust said. It was "the first time I'd ever done it since I fell," he said.

It was "just – wow."

He began walking with the help of a walker, and now he has graduated to a cane. At home and in therapy, though, he goes without it."I told myself (to) just do without it at home," he said. "I try to get back to normal."

Ms. Darland said Mr. Faust has improved "leaps and bounds" since he began therapy last spring.

At his last appointment in Peoria, he showed his doctors he could walk, Ms. Darland said.

"That was huge for him."

Mr. Faust's results may be atypical, she said, but he's young and has a strong upper-body, so when he arrived at therapy that first day, she said, "Let's see what you can do."

Working with Mr. Faust has been rewarding, Ms. Darland said."He's just been a very, very hard worker" with a "great attitude," and a great support network of family and friends.

Now, Mr. Faust is working on his strength and balance. While he can't return to his old job as a bouncer in The District, he's looking forward to "being the same person I was before this."

While Mr. Faust was working with Ms. Cook-Roberts one recent afternoon, his mother came in to catch the tail end of his session.

"The doctor kept telling us, '(we) don't believe he'll ever walk again,'" Ms. Faust said. One doctor had even said it was up to "the man upstairs."

But "as a mom, I never felt that he wasn't going to walk again," Ms. Faust said.

She said she wanted to thank all of the doctors, surgeons and therapists who helped her son, as well as all of the people who offered their time and prayers for his recovery.

"It's been a long haul," Ms. Faust said. "But we're on that miracle end."


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