Level of Injury: T3
ASIA: C
Cause: Spinal clot
Age at Onset: 37

He thought he was having a heart attack on Christmas Eve. An athletic telecommunications technician, a husband and father of two and avid bow hunter, Lonnie Christian immediately went to the hospital. And while doctors at the county hospital were able to rule out a heart attack, they weren’t sure of much else. The 37-year old had walked into the emergency room but was quickly losing sensation and motor function in his feet, his legs, waist and, finally, his chest.

    

Lonnie was transferred to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. – famous for treating President Ronald Reagan after he was shot. There, an MRI revealed a blood clot pressing on Lonnie’s spine and causing the paralysis. Christmas Day was spent in the operating room, while doctors worked for several hours to remove the lamina on the back of his spine in order to access the 4-inch clot.

Doctors told his wife Robin that without the surgery, he had but a 50-50 chance of survival.

Lonnie left the hospital a paraplegic, immobile from the chest down.

Stints at two different rehab facilities produced the same prognosis: there wasn’t much more to be done. Although he had mobility in his arms, “I couldn’t lift things out to the side or up in front of me,” he remembers. “”Plus I had bad trunk balance, I had to sell my compound bow.”

Three years later, however, Lonnie decided there had to be something more he could do. He began by doing research on the Internet. “Then I saw Dr. John McDonald on MSNBC talking about the functional electrical stimulation he was developing, and I contacted him. I went up to Baltimore to the Kennedy Krieger Institute, one of only a handful of places in the country doing that kind of work.”

Soon, he bought the RT300 from Restorative Therapies. With intensive physical rehab – two days a week at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and one day a week at home on his RT300 -- his muscle spasticity has decreased. After two years following this routine, he enjoys better muscle tone. He feels mentally rejuvenated from the workouts. “And I’ve seen motion return in my right foot. I can move it some, wiggle my big toe, move my foot down and inward to the left. Last month, I even got a little movement out of my left toe.”

His physical therapist has noticed improved traces in his gluts and hip flexors. And his urologist is surprised that, even with catheters in and out five times a day, Lonnie averages only one urinary tract infection a year.

“I depend on the RT300 as a critical part of my routine. It keeps me from having to drive up to Baltimore a third time each week, and I like that I can pull my wheelchair right up to it – no transfer. And the RT300 is so compact, it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my living room and has wheels if we have to move it. I haven’t traveled with it yet, but I want to.”

Lonnie also appreciates that the RT300 electronically transmits his session performance data to Restorative Therapies, where a proactive patient service representative monitors results and contacts him with feedback. “It makes me more accountable!” he confesses. “If I fall off my therapy routine, I can immediately tell the difference. I definitely get more muscle spasticity.” Together, he and his clinician then adjust his workout.

But the biggest benefit is that this sportsman has regained functionality in his arms. After six or eight months on the FES stimulator, he even had enough trunk balance to lift a bow again.

So, yes, he’s hunting again. He fishes on the Chesapeake Bay, and wants to conquer the Appalachian Trail. He and Robin just celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. His daughter has been awarded nursing scholarships. He is busy with Cub Scout activities and baseball games with his son.

But Lonnie’s happy ending doesn’t end there. With his newfound strength and functionality, Lonnie started aiming for another goal entirely: Competitive archery. In March, 2007, Lonnie took first place at the 38th Annual U.S. Indoor Archery Championship Eastern Regional Division – AR2 Open. A month later, at the 35th Annual Wheelchair Games, he set the Novice National Record in spite of 20 to 25 mph wind gusts.. In May, he entered the Georgia Cup – a non disabled event. He participated in June’s Endeavor Games in Oklahoma, with over 350 disabled athletes from 29 states and three countries, competing with the US Para Olympic Archery Team and the National US Archery Team. And his memorable summer will culminate in the Mid-Atlantic Championships the end of July.

“My goal is to make the 2008 US Para Olympic team. No one has ever made it in the short tenure I’m going to try to make it in,” smiles Lonnie.

In June 2007, he began training with Ruth Rowe, an internationally known American Olympian who set national and world records in archery and was a leader in the sport throughout the 1970s and 1980s before retiring in 2003. “But I hope to be disqualified from Para Archery one day because I’ll be walking!”

“RT300 FES is a lot like archery. In order to improve, you have to be patient and not expect results overnight. You must also stick to consistent workouts. I am aiming to walk, but until then, I will aim for the 10 ring at 90M, 70M, 50M and 30M and continue my RT300 to keep in top shape.”

“I’m so glad God gave me a second chance at life,” reflects Lonnie.

Clearly, he’s not wasting a second of it.