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Taking on Life One Step at a Time

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Walking with Anthony gives hope to spinal cord injury patients.

Anthony Purcell with his mother, Micki

Walking: an action that, quite literally, keeps us moving. The task of walking seems quite simple: just put one foot in front of the other, thus becoming mobile. The ability to do so is taken for granted by most. That is, until that ability isn't so simple.

It's what happened to Newport Beach resident Anthony Purcell. On a visit to Florida three years ago, then 19-year-old Purcell dove into the ocean, unaware of the dangerous sandbar that made shallow the water below. In an instant, Purcell broke several vertebrae, causing a severe spinal cord injury.

The effects of paralysis were immediate as Purcell’s cousin pulled him out of the water and took him to the hospital, Purcell’s mother, Micki, close behind. Yet despite the bleak outlook, Micki and the Purcell family refused to give up. Effectively shunning paralysis as the prognosis, this family quickly banded together and began looking for treatment options.

But the Purcell family had minimal time to construct a plan before Purcell was released from the hospital. A mere 20 days after his injury, Purcell’s insurance stopped funding the hospital stay and rehabilitation work. The insurance company had given up on Purcell’s recovery, but the family was far from doing so. Soon after, Purcell began further rehabilitation at Project Walk, a Carlsbad-based organization focused on spinal cord injury recovery.    

The effects were amazing. Within weeks of attending this therapy, Purcell was showing improvement. Just this past holiday season, Purcell took his first steps, a monumental moment in healing. With the help of Project Walk, Purcell is on his way toward recovery.      
But for many others, the story is not so hopeful. A one-hour therapy session at Project Walk costs $100, something a spinal cord injury patient might be hard-pressed to afford.

Walking with Anthony was formed by the family as a nonprofit organization designed to help those spinal cord injury patients who do not have the money for treatment. Additionally, this organization also has goals to improve the outlook on spinal cord injuries. Through education, support for spinal cord injury research and the expansion of spinal cord injury rehab centers, Walking with Anthony wishes to revolutionize the way spinal cord injuries are treated.

The program has already done a lot of good. Just ask Indiana mother Erica Predum, a woman with a five-year strong diagnosis of paralysis from the chest down. Predum’s condition, caused by a car accident, caused her to spend her days using an electric wheelchair. Yet, with merely five weeks of additional therapy, Predum progressed to using a manual chair. The therapy would not have been possible without Walking with Anthony, which funded Predum’s recovery.      

Not everyone has the opportunity Anthony Purcell has. Through Walking with Anthony, the Purcell family hopes that the fate of paralysis patients can be reversed.


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