Spinal Cord Injury: Sgt. Roosevelt Anderson Jr. Story - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Sgt. Roosevelt Anderson Jr.'s Story

US Army Special Ops, Age 31, Chicago, IL

RIC patient Sgt Roosevelt Anderson Jr“RJ” – as he is known – knew that he wanted to be a solider his entire life, but his father urged him to go to college first. Two and a half years into an Electrical Engineering degree, the vision for his dream job was clear. He enlisted in the US Army and immediately qualified as a mechanical specialist, managing the electrical systems of helicopters.

In 2012, RJ was invited to join a Special Ops team requiring intense training. It was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do in his life – and he was proud of that accomplishment and excited for his future in the Army. Later that year, he was riding his motorcycle near base when he crashed and broke his back. Due to the severity of the spinal cord injury, he was airlifted to a nearby hospital for surgery. While in recovery, he was told he would never walk again.

Devastated, but unwilling to accept this prognosis, RJ did his homework and called several rehabilitation hospitals to interview them on their programs, research, and care. RIC rose above the rest. “I wanted a program that would push me,” said RJ. “I was game for whatever they could throw at me.”

RJ was admitted to RIC’s New Patient Recovery Unit featuring the world’s first AbilityLab™ that integrates clinical and research teams together, working side-by-side around patients. When RJ arrived, he couldn’t sit up by himself, and had very weak arm function.

Soon, RJ progressed through his inpatient treatment and was always the first to ask for bonus hours of therapy in his free time. Once discharged, he began to have some motor returns in his legs and started a protocol on the Lokomat, a robotic walking therapy that helps the body practice taking steps. Through Lokomat therapy and outpatient therapy, RJ can now walk using a walker and he continues to make tremendous progress.

“My father always said, ‘Nothing in life is free. You have to work for what you want,’ and it’s true. I have never worked so hard for something I want before – ever. I’m thankful to RIC for pushing me and giving me hope.”

Currently, RJ resides at RIC place, continues his outpatient therapies, and
hopes to return one day to the US Army. He also wants to run a marathon someday.