A Turning Point

There was my hand. Floating in the chasm between myself and the man in front of me. I was frozen with embarrassment. I interned at Shepherd Center a week before I met my first patient. Casey, the occupational therapist under whom I worked, arranged the introduction before their therapy session. “Nigel, this is Cali,” she said smiling. “She’ll be observing our training for a while.” “Hi! It’s nice to meet you.” I beamed as I extended my arm. For a moment, I waited patiently for him to return the gesture. And then it hit me. He was paralyzed. He couldn’t move his arms. That’s why he needed therapy in the first place. In the moments that followed, a rush of emotion erupted inside me. I wanted to cry but knew I had to recover quickly. I dropped my arm to my side, pretended to scratch my leg, and mustered a smile. Nigel returned my glance with a look of kindness and a hint of amusement. The moment had passed. Just a few weeks after this unfortunate incident…

I learned that Nigel had been unable to move his arms in legs for nearly 15 years. So often we talk about turning points in a person’s life, and that moment was one for me: recognizing that good, kind people can lose the simple ability to move for no apparent reason. This sense of hopelessness does not come without some light. After three intensive months of physical therapy on the ArmeoSpring, Nigel regained the ability to flip his right hand and sensed tingling in his shoulder. Without regenerative bioscience, this small miracle would not be possible. I hope to use the strength of this field to allow good men and women who’ve fallen upon bad luck to regain the ability to shake a hand.

by Cali Callaway RBC Fellows Undergraduate Student