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Jablonski's Challenges On His Road to Recovery

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Tuesday is Jack Jablonski's first full day at his new rehabilitation center.

The 16-year-old Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore left the Hennepin County Medical Center Monday to begin rehab at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

It was on Dec. 30, 2011 when Jablonski suffered a paralyzing injury during a junior varsity hockey game against Wayzata. Jablonski severed his spinal cord at the neck.

Jack has movement in his arms and his family says he can now lift one arm completely. Doctors previously thought Jablonski wouldn't have any movement below his triceps.

Doctors couldn't give us any specific details on what challenges Jablonski would be facing directly, but they did say what it's like for at spinal cord injury patient at their hospital.

"The first week is just getting use to all the new people," said Dr. Karl Sandin, Physician-in-chief at Sister Kenny. "You're shifting your focus on resuming your role as a person and you're shifting away from being a patient."

NewsRadio 830 WCCO's Edgar Linares Reports


Sandin says they're focused on giving people the skills to become active in the community. Therapists teach them how to use the functioning parts of their bodies in new ways to get things done.

A typical rehab day begins with getting up and getting dressed. Some patients might require help and then it's off to the therapy gym.

"You spend a lot time in strengthening and conditioning," said Sandin. "As well as functional restoration, as well as sitting and posture. You want to make sure you can tolerate being upright. One thing that often times happens if you have a spinal cord injury is that you've been flat for so long that when you sit up you get really light headed. You have to gradually work to get that going."

Inpatient rehabilitation therapy can take three hours a day, up to seven days a week. Some refer to it as "boot camp." Total rehab time could take 6 to 10 weeks before a patient is released.

Sandin says spinal cord injuries come with a number of challenges. Doctors say the spinal cord basically tells the rest of your body how to work.

"When you have a spinal cord injury your bladder doesn't work in the usual way that it does, your gut doesn't work," said Sandin. "Your lungs may have changes in how air is pushed out of your lungs. You can even have changes in your heart rate."

Sandin says another important part of recovery is keeping patients healthy during the process.

"If somebody has to focus on other medical problems and they can't focus all their energy on their neurological recovery then of course there's less likelihood that whatever could happen, would happen," said Sandin.

Sandin says it's hard to say what kind of recovery each spinal cord injury patient will have. Sandin says he's never seen a patient with severe spinal cord injury recover fully. However, he added it's not outside the realm of possibilities to get important improvements in motor and sensory ability back.

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