Diagnosis: SCI
Level of injury: T9
Cause: Fall
Age at onset: 21

The best way to tell Michael Murphy’s story is to have him do it himself—the way he does everything else in his life.

“It was on a Saturday night three years ago. I was in my junior year in college. I was up on a roof, partying with some friends, when I fell two stories and landed on my back. I remember grabbing the chimney and the bricks ripped off as I fell. I was falling with the bricks and then I was on the ground and my friends were standing around me. I tried to move my legs and I couldn’t. My friends were saying, ‘Don’t move, don’t move.’

In the hospital, when they told me what happened, my first thought was of those people using bars to hold themselves up to learn to walk again. And I thought, ‘I’m gonna get one of those. It’ll be fine.’ I was in shock I guess.

A doctor finally gave it to me straight. He told me it was much more serious than I thought. That was a buzz kill!

I had five weeks of in-patient therapy, where I learned how to deal with the ins and outs of being paralyzed. Then for 12 weeks I was an outpatient. It’s definitely not an easy thing to go through: being in a hospital, doing all that therapy. But I did it. I even finished therapy in time to go back to school, finish the classes I missed and graduate with my class on time.

Originally I wanted to join the Marines. I have a passion for all things military. Being unable to serve has been one of the hardest things for me. But now I’m at George Mason University working on my masters in American history and I’m going to use that degree to work in a civilian job with the military.

It surprises me how much I’ve accomplished since the accident. I’m coaching Varsity Baseball.  I’ve been on a cruise to the Caribbean with my college friends. I’ve been to Rome, Paris and Kenya. And here’s my own personal claim to fame: When I went to Pompeii with my brother and sister, our tour guide (who has been the head guide for the last 20 years) said I’m the first person in a wheelchair to do the complete able-bodied tour through the ruins. I went over rocks and into houses that were obviously not wheelchair accessible. I’m proud of that.”

Mike learned about the RT300 FES system as an inpatient at the National Rehabilitation Hospital and at the VCU Medical Center.

“All the therapists and doctors were constantly saying how beneficial the RT300 is, not just to keep your muscles toned in your legs but to keep your legs working, to keep your circulation flowing and a million other things. They were all saying how important it is, so my parents got me one. I started by stimulating the usual muscle groups: quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals. But I wanted to do more and so I put abdominals and calf muscles into the mix. We added four of RT50 wireless stimulators, so now I can work all those muscle groups. It’s a much more efficient workout for me. It’s weird how I can be watching TV, or reading a book, or even falling asleep, and still be getting physical benefits and breathing heavily.

Because of finals, I haven’t been working out for the past two weeks. It’s weird: I can actually see my thighs shrinking! I miss working out. Not just because it helps my muscles, but because it makes me feel better all over, including mentally. It helps my state of mind. Usually, when I’m not so busy, I use my RT300 at least two or three times a week for up to an hour. It’s important to me to keep up the muscle I had in my legs from playing football and baseball. It’s important to stay strong and healthy. When I get off the RT300, I can stretch out my legs easily, they’re nice and flexible. I’m itching to get back on the RT300!

I’ve seen so many people—like my aunt, who’s a quadriplegic—just let their legs wither away. Or if they’re into sports, they have those big upper bodies with lower bodies like sticks. I recommend the RT300 to anyone who wants a nice balance between lower and upper. I mean, now I’m completing marathons! I train with Team Reeve to help them raise money, which is great, and it motivates me to work out. I went 37 miles once. I do marathons around the country: I’ve done a couple Marine Corp races, the New York marathon and the Boston Marathon.

You know, this whole time, I’ve kept a positive outlook. I mean, yeah, the situation sucks. But it’s opened a lot of doors for me. It’s made me a better person. It’s made me physically stronger and mentally stronger. It’s given me lots of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And it’s taught me a lot about myself. I learned that if I can conquer this, I can conquer anything. A lot of good has come out of that fall off the roof.”

Speaking of conquering: Mike recently came in fifth in the hand-cycle division of the Boston Marathon—AND beat his time from his previous marathon. Congratulations Mike!