Meet Jon: A Craig Story
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Between his freshman and sophomore year as a construction management student and hockey player at University of Wisconsin-Stout, Jon Plaszcz was visiting his dad in Florida and working a construction job. On August 7, 2016, Jon was on his way home from a concert on a moped during the torrential downpours and winds from the approaching Hurricane Hermine.
He hit his brakes, his moped slid and Jon sustained a spinal cord injury on impact. Jon was rushed to an emergency room in St. Petersburg, Florida and was at the hospital for more than three weeks. His family at his side, Jon was medically stabilized. His sister, who lives in Denver, was familiar with Craig Hospital and his family had no question that Craig is where they wanted him to rehabilitate.
Jon arrived at Craig on September 2, 2016, his family surrounding him with support. Jon’s mom stayed in Craig’s Patient & Family Housing Apartments for over four months while he rehabbed at Craig. Family members and close friends are integral to a patient’s rehabilitation – whether spinal cord or brain injury – as they are often a patient’s biggest support system when they return to their communities. Craig encourages this involvement as much as possible and invests in the education and support of family as they spend time with their loved one in rehab. Jon says that it was important for his family to be with him, “there were times that I wanted to give up and my family wouldn’t let me.”
Jon’s first few weeks at Craig were especially challenging. He had a pressure sore on his tailbone that had developed during his ICU stay. He could not feel it due to his injury, but it could be life threatening if untreated. Jon was bed-bound as he healed from his wound and, simultaneously, began to process his injury and what life might look like. He didn’t know how he would live independently, if he could do what he loved, and if he could pursue construction and contracting work.
An interdisciplinary team of more than eight providers at Craig serves each patient, addressing their unique situation and needs, motivating them and helping them address challenges. Early in his time at Craig, Jon and his family met with a psychologist who assisted Jon in navigating some of the emotional challenges associated with his injury.
As his wound healed, Jon minimally participated in physical and occupational therapies (PT, OT), attending but wanting to be done as soon as possible. As he did therapy alongside others, he noticed progress and attitudes different than his own. One day, he realized he could say “why me or poor me?” or move forward. Jon says, “one day I decided that I had to make the choice to go up or go down. And I chose up. My family didn’t let me waver on this and I’ve never looked back.”
From that time on, Jon fully participated in rehabilitation. His attitude shifted from “I want to stop” to“ why are we done?” He spent time with other inpatients and said that he found the support of his peers to be essential in his recovery. Jon now gives back through peer mentorship of new inpatients.
Jon worked hard toward his independence from that point forward. It was important to him to be in a manual wheelchair rather than a power wheelchair and he fought daily for the strength he needed to wheel himself.
Jon learned to transfer from his wheelchair to airline seats, a shower chair, a bed, and a car in Craig’s Transfer Lab. He received Patient Assistance funding to be able to purchase a shower chair that is vital yet not covered by insurance.
The Assistive Technology Lab at Craig helped Jon understand what adaptive equipment he needed to navigate life independently and helped him program his phone so that he can control his environment. For many patients, this includes experiencing cutting edge technology that can help turn on and off lights, open doors and turn blinds. For others, the Assistive Tech Lab helps them become equipped with the voice to text programming and more.
Jon was particularly inspired by Therapeutic Recreation (T-Rec). His therapist, Robyn, visited him each day. He declined T-Rec for weeks until one day he saw a friend get fitted for a bike. He thought, “why am I not doing that?” and was in the recreation room each day for the remainder of his stay. Activities ranged from playing lacrosse with a professional player, biking (Jon rode in Pedal 4 Possible, Craig’s signature bike ride), to painting. He now pursues any and every thing and is not only engaging in new passions but sees mental and physical benefits as well.
If it weren’t for Craig, I would not be this successful and living independently. Craig gave me everything I needed and wanted to keep going, to figure this life out and to handle the struggles of bringing my old life into now. Craig gave me my life back.Jon Plaszcz
Now a Craig graduate, Jon is still on campus regularly. He spends time every Wednesday in the pool at Craig’s PEAK Wellness Center, a community gym for people with neurologic conditions. Beyond the physical health implications of swimming against a current, Jon shares that “there is nothing more freeing than being in water. I am weightless, I am not in my wheelchair and I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything.” Jon regularly works out on the weight machines, the bikes and participated in the NeuroRecovery Network program. With the assistance of PTs, OTs and his personal health commitments, Jon has better core stability, range of motion, his right tricep started to move and he has more finger movement.
Many of these programs that helped Jon are not covered by insurance. At Craig, we do not let that stand in the way of powerful growth for individuals. Because of this, we rely on your philanthropy to offer programs like Patient & Family Housing, Patient Assistance, T-Rec, PEAK, Assistive Technology, Adaptive Transportation, and more!
Help us inspire Jon and other Craig patients, as well as celebrate their successes, by making a donation today!