An Incredible Story of Perserverance.
This following story has been summarized from the online article, “Dr. Dale Hull Explains How Life Changes In a Fraction Of a Second”, written by John E Phillips from the blog, ‘wheel:life.’
Dr. Dale Hull, founder of Neuroworx in Salt Lake City, UT shares his incredible and almost impossible journey.
In 1999 Dr. Dale Hull had been practicing OB/GYN for a while and was a father of four boys. Hull was an active adult from being involved in church to playing football and basketball. As active as he was, never did he think he would be paralyzed from the neck down. What started as a normal day jumping on the trampoline with his children resulted in a spinal cord injury that he never saw coming. He landed on the back of his head and the top of his shoulders and immediately heard and felt the loud pop. At that moment his whole body went numb and he knew exactly what happened.
Upon arriving at the hospital where he had been practicing for 10 years, they took an x-ray and the results showed a dislocated 5th cervical vertebra over the top of the 4th cervical vertebra and those vertebrae remained locked. He also had a couple of fractures and his spinal cord was coming down in two different 90-degree turns, which meant the spinal cord was pinched by the dislocation.
At that point, the doctors did not believe that he would have any type of recovery.
Well, Dr. Hull had a different plan in mind.
Following the initial diagnosis, he was stabilized and transferred to the University of Utah Hospital where he was aware the life he once knew, was over.
“The hardest part of a spinal-cord injury for me, and I think for most people, is the struggle to find out who you are, when you’re not who you were.”
Goodbye to Dr. Dale Hull, Hello to Dale
If you have suffered a spinal-cord injury, you quickly realize that when you begin rehabilitation, you go not to become better but to become different. With significant injuries such as this one, you will never be the same as you were before the accident, so the willingness to become different becomes a much more challenging frame of mind.
Unlike breaking your arm and knowing the end result, with this type of injury, you realize that you are on an uncharted path, and you have no idea where that path will take you. “So, life becomes really scary. You have no knowledge or experience of how to deal with this different world into which you’ve been thrust.”
Hull went into therapy thinking he would not get any function back. At that time his only goal was to be able to have enough function to operate a power chair. He never imagined that he would be carrying the Olympic torch just two years later.
After many difficult months of therapy, Hull met Physical Therapist, Jan Black in the middle of 2000. (Jan and Dale now work together at Neuroworx). It was around this time that he realized he needed a new goal for which to strive since he was making significant progress.
His new goal: to be an Olympic torch bearer. But he did not want to carry the torch in a wheelchair, he wanted to walk and carry the torch in Salt Lake City for the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Even with the progress he had already made, this new goal was an almost-impossible task. He was still battling some numbness overall and especially in his dominant right hand. The thought of carrying a 3.5lb torch without dropping it was a very big challenge.
In July of 2001, Hull learned that he was chosen to be a torch bearer in 2002.
Therapy kicked into high gear at that moment, with only 6 months to get his body ready. Black put together a plan of exercise and therapy. They utilized aquatic therapy and strapped ankle weights to a baseball bat to replicate the weight of the torch.
When I began to think about the fact that 2-1/2-years earlier, the only thing I could do was move my head, participating in the event became almost overwhelming. I couldn’t get over the fact that I would be walking down the street in downtown Salt Lake City Utah, carrying this torch with hundreds of people watching. I never dreamed 2-1/2-years earlier that I would have this kind of opportunity. At that time, I was totally paralyzed.
Life for Dr. Dale Hull after the Olympic Torch
Throughout the time that Jan Black was working with me, she was also working with other people in their homes who required more therapy. Jan had worked with spinal-cord injury people throughout her entire career, and ultimately she wanted her own clinic. Therefore, Jan and Dale began to talk about why someone hadn’t started a special clinic, devoted exclusively to people with spinal-cord injuries, and how they could make that happen.
The quote that sealed the deal for both of them was from Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” At that moment, they knew it was time to figure out how to make their dream come true.
Hull knew that it was his responsibility to be a part of setting-up a physical-therapy clinic designed and developed specifically to help people with spinal-cord injuries, after their insurance quit paying for their therapy.
I thought, “I have been blessed enough to regain some function in my body with Jan’s expertise and hard work. I can give back for what I have received by helping others to have the same opportunity that I had had – more therapy and more-specific therapy, for either type of injury, and the use of specialized equipment to help give me every advantage to get all the function I possibly could get back.”
In November of 2003 the Hull Foundation was formed to create a state-of-the-art outpatient physical therapy clinic called Neuroworx, a spinal-cord and neurology-recovery center. They are a community-based life and therapy center that focuses primarily on spinal-cord injuries, along with strokes and other neurological conditions.
In 2004, Jan Black and Dale Hull were the only ones involved in the foundation. All they had was an empty room and a lot of ideas. They had one pair of hand weights, a blue therapy mat and a red therapy ball. They utilized a local swimming pool for aquatic therapy.
Now, they have 10,000 feet of space, lots of specialized equipment including a HydroWorx 500 Series pool and a staff of 10. “Actually we’re out of space, now. We hope to build our own building and become the best outpatient facility for spinal-cord and neurologic-injuries in the nation.”
In fact, three of HydroWorx’s very own recently took a trip to Salt Lake City, UT to join in the celebration of Neuroworx’s growth and their mission to build a second facility, which is currently in progress!
As for Dr. Dale Hull, he is still partially paralyzed from the chest down, and walks with a cane. Walking has become a very conscious act for him. When he is familiar with the surroundings, he can walk without a cane, but when he is out and about, he using the cane to prevent” being accused of being under the influence. So I am known as a walking clod. I am fairly independent. “
Our mission is to promote the rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions and to create and support the finest comprehensive outpatient neurological rehabilitation facility in the region.