3.29. NIck Balenger walks across stage at graduation
**As we share the recovery progress and accomplishments of this young man, it is important to note that functional return following a spinal cord injury is individualized and highly dependent on the nature and severity of the injury. There is generally a 2 year window of time post injury, as healing occurs at the site of the injury, for possible sensory and/or motor return. No two injured persons will have the same outcome. While rehabilitation, determination and perserverence are vitally important to recovery, return of function is independent of these factors and often even the most determined of efforts may result in little or no functional recovery. What we would like to highlight here is Nick's positive attitude and perseverance of spirit to continue on his life path no matter how different it may now be.
During the summer of 2012, Nick Balenger and his family from Virginia traveled to Hawaii for a vacation. Their summer fun was abruptly halted when Nick, a rising high school senior, sustained a C 4/5 spinal cord injury in a swimming accident. Far from home, the family faced the challenges of returning to Virginia so that Nick could enter a rehab facility near his home. NSCIA was contacted and guidance was provided to the family as they worked with their insurance carrier to provide for Nick's return all the way back to the East Coast. Further contact with NSCIA continued as friends sought guidance about fundraising and other ways to help this family with a new spinal cord injury.
Nick had been a star pitcher on his high school baseball team; future dreams were suddenly so elusive. Nick made up his mind that he would, in some way, not let this injury rule his life. The goal that he set for himself was to be able to walk across the stage to receive his high school diploma. As time elapsed, Nick continued his rehab and gradually, he began to experience some functional return to his lower limbs. Thanks to his rehab, a determined attitude and the blessings of functional recovery, Nick was able to attend his homecoming game just 3 months after his injury. With the assistance of his teammates, he was able to stand briefly at the ceremony. Then, June 2013 and graduation time arrived. He practiced many times, prior to his graduation ceremony, rolling his wheelchair to the edge of the stage and then with the assistance of a walker he practiced ascending the few stairs and crossing the stage.
On June 19, 3013, Nick Balenger realized his dream and goal! He rolled to the edge of the stage, transferred to a walker, ascended the stairs and crossed the stage to receive his diploma...... to cheers and a standing ovation! Undaunted by facing a life after spinal cord injury, he plans to attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia this Fall.