Harris Abramson’s Story

Harris Abramson, an aeronautical engineer at GE Aircraft Engines, was an avid cyclist, mountain climber and hockey player before a spinal cord injury in 2003 left him paralyzed. He credits Drake Center for providing the inspiration and expertise to get him moving again.

“The day of my accident, I was riding my bike when a car turned in front of me unexpectedly. I hit it broadside, flipped over my handlebars and landed on the fender in a seated position. Afterward, I couldn’t feel or move my legs at all, and my back was in excruciating pain.

Paramedics rushed me to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where tests showed that the impact had forced my first lumbar vertebra out from between the disks, damaging my spinal cord. Doctors operated to reduce the pressure on the spinal cord, but they weren’t sure I’d ever walk again.

After two days, I transferred to Drake Center. I still couldn’t move my legs, but I quickly discovered that staying in bed would not be an option. Therapists helped me strengthen my upper body and retrain my damaged nervous system, as well as use my wheelchair. They were amazing – I’d never experienced such compassion. Every day was filled with hope and prospects for my recovery. The therapists, doctors and nurses helped me believe that anything was possible. I was motivated, but they supplied the inspiration and expertise.

After a few weeks, I went to Bridgeway Pointe, an assisted-living facility connected to Drake. Aggressive rehabilitation continued while I was there for a month, and for almost two years after that, on an outpatient basis.

Progress was incremental. Every little thing–moving a toe, taking a step–became cause for celebration. GE was very supportive during my recovery, and I returned to work six months after my accident. Then, another six months and many therapy sessions later, I was able to walk again. Now I have just a slight limp. I stay pretty active, walking a lot and riding my recumbent bicycle, and I’ve started climbing mountains again–lower elevations than before, but that’s good enough for me.

I’ve also become an advocate for people with spinal cord injuries, on both the national and local levels. My motivation comes from something Christopher Reeve once said: ‘It’s what you do after a trauma that gives it meaning.’ He was right.”

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