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Student Discovers a New Path After Spinal Cord Injury

May 20, 2020

The second his helmet hit his teammate’s shoulder pad, Cameron Shelley knew.

As he lay on the football field waiting for the ambulance to come, his high school teammates gathered around him, he knew his life would never be the same. He also knew that somehow, things would work out.

Now, two and a half years after his spinal cord injury, Cameron knows that his initial feeling was correct. Things have worked out. While he was not able to return to sports in the same way, he has discovered a new passion.

On Cameron’s first day at Craig, he met Danielle Scroggs, a therapeutic recreation specialist. Danielle oversees the Teen Rehab at Craig (TRAC) program and assists with the Adaptive Gaming program.

“She popped into my room and asked me if I wanted to play video games with the other patients,” he says. “That opened my eyes to the community that thrives at Craig.”

Cameron was able to learn and rehab with his peers in the donor-funded TRAC program and School Program. When he left inpatient care after five weeks, he was able to walk using a forearm crutch.

After discharge, Cameron wanted to give back Craig.

“Danielle knew that I was interested in engineering, so she approached me with a challenge,” says Cameron. “She wanted me to create a joystick that would attach to an Xbox D-pad controller to make it easier to use for someone with limited hand function.”

He worked with Danielle and Patrick Wagner in Craig’s Rehabilitation Engineering Department to design and refine the device in a computer-aided design program. From there, Patrick printed the joystick on Craig’s 3D printer.

“Once we were satisfied with the design, I uploaded the plans to an online database so that anyone can benefit from the design,” he says. “Danielle is also using the device with her other patients to help them use gaming to meet their therapy goals.”

Cameron with Danielle Scroggs, CTRS

Cameron demonstrates his Xbox joystick.

Through a formal internship program at his school, Cameron went on to work with Patrick to design a new adaptive fishing rod extension component that helps people with limited finger strength to cast a line.

Cameron, who was the featured senior speaker at his high school’s virtual Senior Dessert, plans to attend the Colorado School of Mines to study mechanical engineering. He is interested in exploring assistive technology and rehabilitation engineering as a career path.

“When I entered high school, I was sure that football would be my legacy,” he says. “My time at Craig — as a patient, a volunteer, and an intern — has given me a new kind of passion and a way to engage.”

Cameron Shelley's speech for the Legacy High School Class of 2020 Senior Dessert (starting at 21:00).