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Meet Matt: A Craig Story

The way the donations are used here are for people. People need to learn how to live. Those dollars may buy machines and support programs, but those dollars also empower a person’s spirit.

Matt’s mom, Nida

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Meet Matt

It should have been just another Sunday. A Sunday filled with church, family, and preparation for the week ahead as a high school assistant principal. But Matt Messick woke up and could not feel his legs.

He was rushed to the ER and learned that there was an abscess in his spine. He immediately underwent surgery and was told there was a 10% chance he would ever walk again. His surgeon told him he needed a world-class rehabilitation facility and recommended Craig Hospital.

Matt joined the Craig family in July 2018 and hasn’t looked back. He rehabilitated from his spinal cord injury as an inpatient for eight weeks, accompanied by his mother and other family members. The therapy and education provided during an inpatient stay sets the foundation for lifelong success, however Matt was continuing to make great strides.

Upon discharge, Matt had a choice: should he return to Kansas City for outpatient rehabilitation or stay at Craig? Because of the people, programs, and donors at Craig, Matt chose to continue his rehabilitation in Colorado.

Matt is staying in Craig’s Patient & Family Housing which offers fully accessible apartments supported by donors. He was very familiar with this option as a number of his family members and friends stayed there during his inpatient stay. The ability to have family support during that challenging time meant the world to Matt. As Matt transitioned to outpatient therapy, it was important for him to be on campus, close to therapies, and have a place for his twin sons to stay while they visited. Matt shares, “the on campus housing is great from a home modification standpoint. I use it to learn what I might need in my own house. I can also practice living by myself in a safe place. This helps me understand what I’ve mastered, and know what I still need to work on.”

Choosing to stay in Colorado away from his family was not an easy, so Matt was determined to maximize his outpatient time at Craig. His schedule is packed full of activities and therapies and when he’s not in scheduled sessions, you will find Matt working out and fine-tuning the skills he’s learned through the week. Matt says, “Craig cares about you right now, when you go home, and for the rest of your life.” He’s made a personal commitment to that approach by greeting staff and mentoring other patients. One therapist even dubbed him the “Mayor of Craig.”

On his first day at Craig, Matt was only able to move the third toe on his right foot. Determined, Matt worked tirelessly in physical therapy and in Craig’s PEAK Center for accessible wellness. Guided by the expertise of therapists and exercise specialists, Matt gains strength and make tremendous physical progress every day. Today, Matt can stand up and take a few steps independently. He’s come so far, but this is only the beginning.

The PEAK Center pool is also critical in Matt’s therapy. He feels freedom being in the water and gains strength on a regular basis. Matt uses the pool treadmill, has practiced SCUBA, tried a standup paddleboard, and been swimming with his sons, a joyful moment of fun and therapy mixed together. This would not be possible without the dedication of donors!

Learning to be independent and thrive following an injury like Matt’s takes time. Craig is committed to providing the education and real-life experience to patients so they are ready to return to their communities and get back to life. By participating in Wheelchair Class, Matt has gained confidence going down stairs in his wheelchair, over curbs, traveling on grass and more. Matt says “I learn what I can do on my own and what I can do with help. Can I take a set of steps rather than going out of my way? The Wheelchair Class puts me in real-life situations that I will encounter on a daily basis. I have also learned how to instruct others to safely assist me.”

One of Matt’s life passions is golfing. He gets to be outside, enjoy nature, relax, and be with friends. It was critical to get him back on the course and he was able to do that through Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation (T-Rec). Robyn, his T-Rec Specialist, took him to the golf course with the goals of working on balance, endurance, and strength while learning about adaptive equipment. Thanks to generous donors like you, Matt has also attended a Rockies game, gone SCUBA diving, and cycled with T-Rec.

Craig programs, equipment, buildings, and assistance to patients (in Matt’s case, a Craig Foundation grant for home modifications and a modified toilet seat) are not covered by insurance and rely on philanthropy.

Matt looks forward to returning to his family and career. Craig is designing every step of his therapy path to ensure he is independent empowering him to know that he can live following his spinal cord injury.

Empower Matt and other Craig patients, as well as celebrate their successes, by making a donation today!

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