Diagnosis: SCI
Level of injury: C8
Cause: football injury
Age at onset: 23

The young doctor knew how to handle tears and “why me?” But when he told Kevin Kramer he’d never walk again, he was unprepared for the reaction: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know who I am. It doesn’t matter what you say to me, I’ll walk again. Between God, my will and my family I’ll have the strength to do whatever I want to do.”

That doctor learned never to say “never” to Kevin Kramer.

The force of Kevin’s will is a major part of who he is. Losing that will—losing himself—is one of the few things Kevin fears. When he talks about the aftermath of slamming into a wall during a flag football game, he lingers over the moment he knew he was in “serious trouble,” the moment when, for an instant, he lost himself. He’d played football his whole life, so he assumed he’d just had another stinger (mild trauma to the spinal cord familiar to athletes). But waiting for the helicopter to transport him to the hospital, “I put my hand on my stomach and it felt hollow like I was touching someone else. It didn’t feel like I was touching me. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. That’s when I said ‘call my dad.’”

At the hospital, Kevin was in traction for three days, had two screws inserted into his head, had his neck located back into place. They gave him steroids and fusions. They operated on him for seven hours. He dropped 35 pounds in two weeks. But every day, Kevin woke up and had sensation in a different place. He remembers vividly the day he regained sensation in his stomach. “It was there again. I rubbed it for two days straight. I must have told everyone 30 times I had sensation back!”

When his doctor told Kevin “never,” a challenge had been issued. And as a lifelong athlete, Kevin wasn’t about to back down. “I’ve never changed that mindset since the day my doctor said I’d never walk. I will one day, I know I will. So until then I’ll give myself the best shot of doing it.”

Kevin sees the RT300 FES system as a major weapon in his battle to walk again. “Before I started using the RT300 I felt brittle and weak. I was on a lot of medication for spasms and pain. I tried to get off both of them but my nerve pain and spasms were so bad I couldn’t. Then I started using the RT300 an hour a day 3–5 days a week. I don’t take pain meds for nerve pain anymore. I’m having movement in my lower body. It feels like you’re running! I bet I’ve put 1400 miles on the RT300! I’ve met people who have been in wheelchairs for 20 years and they have osteoporosis, or no muscle mass in their lower body, or circulation problems. I don’t have any of those. If I didn’t believe in it I wouldn’t use it. I wouldn’t waste my time.”

Time is precious to Kevin. He’s spending it methodically checking off his goals. “My goal was to get my life back. They weren’t even sure I’d be able to take care of myself, and I’ve been doing that for a long time.” (Life back? Check.) “On a professional level, I want to work.” (Kevin was recently hired as a business manager at a car dealership. Check.) “On a therapeutic level, I want to be healthy and fit.” (He’s using the RT300, training on a treadmill, and playing rugby. Healthy? Check.)  “On a financial level, I want to be more independent.“ (He just bought his first house. Check.)

Walking is one goal that’s still out of reach. But Kevin is planning on checking that one off too. “I have sensation everywhere. My legs are bigger than some able-bodied people. I feel really good. Which a lot of people can’t say. I know I’m blessed.”