What's next for Jablonski? Courage Center offers some insight

10:49 AM, Jan 6, 2012   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- The journey ahead for an injured Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player is going to be long and filled with difficult emotions and intensive therapy, according to staff and patients at the Golden Valley-based Courage Center.

Last week, 16-year-old Jack Jablonski suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a hockey game against Wayzata. This week, doctors determined the teenager would likely never walk again.

Scott Proudfoot, 23, also heard those very words.

"The last thing you want to think about is you're not going to walk again, and the first thing you want to do is try to keep the hope up," Proudfoot said while undergoing intensive physical therapy at the Courage Center on Thursday.

On July 8, Proudfoot had what he calls a "freak accident" when he fell off his family's dock in Lakeville. The recent graduate of the University of Iowa knew immediately his injury was serious and doctors later confirmed he'd broken his neck and would be paralyzed.

Proudfoot said in the days following the accident he went through several stages of the grieving process: from denial to anger and eventually to determination.

"If you do nothing, you're not going to get better. That's my mindset towards it," Proudfoot said. "So the more you do, the better chance you have to make any sort of recovery."

Julie Flanagan, the director of nursing at Courage Center, said Proudfoot's journey is similar to those taken by people with severe spinal cord injuries.

"He might feel some anger, fear," she said.

Flanagan said it's likely Jablonski will also go through stages of denial, guilt, anger and grief. At the same time, she said he'll begin what amounts to a full year of rigorous therapy.

"Therapy is going to begin very soon. Once his neck is stable and they feel it necessary to start working and working those limbs and so forth," Flanagan said.

A month in the hospital is usually followed by a month in "acute rehab," also at the hospital, Flanagan explained. A patient then often spends up to four months in a facility like Courage Center, where he would continue to undergo several forms of rigorous therapy.

And once the patient is able to return home, his therapy and recovery only continues.

"They gain some strength and ability and gain some confidence in doing some of those routine things that they would normally do," Flanagan said.

After the year-mark, most patients will have regained the majority of what they're physically capable of regaining. Still, patients can continue to make physical progress with ongoing therapy and treatments.

For Scott Proudfoot, he has hope both he and patients like Jack Jablonski will someday walk again with the help of both determination and advancements in medical technology.

"I'll walk again, I'm sure of it," Proudfoot said. "It's all a matter of time. Hopefully sooner than later, but it will happen."

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