Health

Spinal cord injury patients find hope, independence through adventure

New adaptive devices are helping spinal cord injury patients to overcome their physical limitations.

Spinal cord injury patients find hope, independence through adventure
Scripps News
SMS

On a Friday evening, 15-year-old Ethan Glynn suits up in a wetsuit so he can go scuba diving in a pool in landlocked Denver, Colorado.

It might seem like an unusual place for such a venture, but to Ethan it means everything.

"I'm still getting to learn new things and try new things that I want to do," he said from his wheelchair that sits poolside.

Ethan is a spinal cord injury patient and is currently training to go on a scuba diving trip in June with his parents and older brother, Parker. An unforgettable venture, this trip will carry extra meaning as it will be the first major trip Ethan has been able to take since he was paralyzed from the upper bicep down during his first high school football game in September 2022.

"Right when [I made the tackle], I couldn't move and then, they started touching me and asking if I could feel it. Then, when I said I couldn't feel it, I knew it was bad," said Ethan.

"I called 9-1-1," added Ethan's dad, Corey, as he recalled that night. "I brought his mom and brother down, but it was really just making sure he could see us and trying to put his mind at ease."

Shortly after his injury, Ethan, a Minnesota Native, was put in touch with members of Craig Hospital in Denver. The hospital runs a growing adventure program for spinal cord injury patients, like Ethan, so they can enjoy activities they never thought they would be able to partake in again.

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In years past, the adventure program has taken participants surfing, rock climbing and mountain biking. This year's trip will take Ethan and seven other participants to the Cayman Islands.

"I get to see this teenager come to life again and really get to feel this sense of freedom," said Danielle Scroggs, a Certified Therapy Recreation Specialist at Craig Hospital. 

Scroggs will accompany Ethan on the June trip to the Caribbean. Over the course of the last eight years, she has led every other adventure trip the hospital organizes.

"So many people identify themselves by the recreation and leisure that they partake in pre-injury, and they can oftentimes feel a loss in identity," said Scroggs. "So, to be able to go on a trip like this and feel that sense of hope and success, and that they can be an athlete or they can be adventurous, and they can be successful in these new environments is really rewarding."

Ethan's mom, Cassidy, will be in the Cayman Islands too, just watching. But she knows she will get to see Ethan and her family bond in ways they never thought possible just a few months ago.

"I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of him and his brother and dad," said Cassidy. "You know, it's just been amazing. He just goes forward. There's no negative. It's all positive — It's 'What can we do to move forward?'"

"Being negative isn't going to help at all, so I'd rather just keep going and try to enjoy as much as I can," added Ethan.