Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Helps Brian Lafty Walk Again

Brian Lafty of Sellersville does not take a single step for granted. In fact, the former college football player recently took some of the most important steps of his life.

It all started when Brian went to bed one night in 2015 and could not move the next morning.

“I woke up paralyzed from the chest down,” says Brian.

Initially mis-diagnosed with traverse myelitis, a spinal cord disorder, it was not until 2018 that Brian learned the actual cause of his debilitating paralysis -- a non-traumatic spinal cord injury caused by an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein.

Brian underwent surgery in February 2018, but because his diagnosis and therefore recovery was delayed, it was imperative he find the best rehabilitation possible to maximize the results of the procedure. With the significant upper body strength he developed during football, many inpatient rehabilitation programs disqualified Brian because they considered him too functional for that level of care.

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital (GSRH) in Allentown did not refuse Brian inpatient care. He spent roughly 4 weeks from February to March 2018 working with GSRH therapists and physiatrists who solely focused on his recovery. Brian says during therapy he was upright for the first time since he became ill and throughout previous diagnoses and treatment.

“At Good Shepherd having a [standing frame] hold me up was one of the biggest changes,” says Brian.

Prior to that, he was limited to bed or a wheelchair and had to drag his legs with his upper body to change position.

Upon discharge, Brian transitioned to outpatient therapy at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy – Souderton. Brian could continue making progress at a location close to home thanks to Good Shepherd’s complete continuum of care.

Brian’s outpatient program combines manual therapy, strengthening and endurance work and is updated based on his progress, according to Diane Kim, PT, DPT, Brian’s physical therapist at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy - Souderton.

“We are trying to help him perform routine tasks and increase his weight bearing endurance for activities like standing and ambulating around his home,” Diane says.

Walking, posture retraining and posture control also are elements of Brian’s physical therapy, and Diane can adjust his knee-ankle-foot braces to allow Brian to take more control of his body as he progresses.

She conceeds sometimes she will “pull back the reins” during sessions, because Brian is fierce about getting better.

Brian, who arrived at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in February 2018 in a wheelchair can now walk 75 feet with his braces and forward rolling walker and stand for several minutes on his own with upper extremity support.

But that progress was not enough for Brian, who wanted to walk onto the field with his son, the football team’s captain, as he was crowned homecoming king. It would take some preparation, but Diane knew how much it meant to Brian and did everything possible to make sure he was ready to take those steps.

That night, Diane and physical therapy intern Gianna Letinski helped Brian into his braces. Walking alongside him and his family on the field, Diane says Brian “floated” across the field.

“When the adrenalin kicked in, the walker sort of came off the ground,” Diane says.

Brian acknowledges he felt an energy surge before stepping onto the field. He was nervous because the field was Astroturf which can be more slippery than regular grass.

“I was worried about the turf, but when they called [my son’s name] I walked 35 yards,” Brian says with pride.

“Before coming to Good Shepherd I had no use of my legs,” says Brian. “I am so grateful I went to Good Shepherd for their part in helping me achieve this goal. The staff is like a family, more than anywhere else I’ve gone.”

To learn more about Good Shepherd physical therapy, call 1-888-44-REHAB.