Matthew Barron of Hastings, Minnesota was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 17. Nearing the end of chemotherapy treatment in the spring of 2012, he required hospitalization for staph infection and multi-organ failure. He lost sensory and motor function in his lower extremities, which electromyography showed to be caused by a lumbosacral plexopathy.
Barron began his rehabilitation in the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Abbott Northwestern Hospital inpatient unit, working tirelessly to adapt to his new lifestyle, to perform daily cares and gain independence using a wheelchair. He then transitioned to outpatient physical therapy at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - River Falls in River Falls, Wisconsin.
"When Matt began, he had clear optimism and a determined work ethic to regain as much mobility and lower extremity strength as possible," said Nicholas Maiers, PT, Barron's therapist at River Falls. Barron's accomplishments over the next few months included strengthening in his hips, quadriceps and hamstrings. Soon he was using a standing frame and tolerating upright weight bearing.
Next Barron began standing and walking, using bilateral knee-ankle orthotic devices and working out in the pool as well. His improvements amazed the staff. "As a clinician it has been thrilling to get the opportunity to work with this young man and see firsthand the immediate rewards of hard work," said Maiers.
Barron returned to school in the fall of 2012, using a wheelchair, but in the fall of 2013, he began the school year without a wheelchair - walking with only rigid bilateral ankle-foot orthoses.
Barron has a very supportive family that took active roles in his recovery and expressed awe at his incredible accomplishments. He also gained the total admiration of both staff and clients at the River Falls site, while maintaining a humble attitude. Wanting to give back and help others, he donated his standing frame to Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, so other patients can benefit from it.
He has become a champion on issues affecting people with disabilities, serving as a role model and sharing his story with his community. Maiers summed up by saying "Matt's message will serve to not only educate and inspire, but will provide an engine to help spread awareness regarding the challenges faced by those with disabilities."