Chuck's Story

Spinal Cord Injury

Chef mixes it up for rehab patients

Corporate Executive Chef, Chuck Sansone, was headed to work when a van going 50 mph plowed into him at a stoplight. He knew things were bleak. He couldn’t feel his legs and felt a burning in him – heChuck2017 thought he was going to die and only wanted to call his wife. 

Chuck was taken to an area hospital with a broken back. Doctors performed surgery to fuse his vertebrae with titanium rods and screws.

“I knew life was going to be in a wheelchair for a while, but my spinal cord wasn’t severed. So, when my bosses suggested I go to DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) to work on walking again, I was all for it.”

Chuck was transferred to RIM in an ambulance, unable to sit, walk or move. Despite recent surgery, five cracked ribs and bleeding in his hip, therapists worked with him immediately.

“I told my physical and occupational therapists to work me to exhaustion because each session gets me one step closer to walking. Four months later when I was released, I had lost 50 pounds. I could sit up, transfer and take showers.”

Chuck continued with outpatient therapy and has lost another 40 pounds. He has movement in one leg, and has taken some steps with the help of leg braces and parallel bars.

“The Rehab Institute has given me my life back! They offer so many advanced therapies and push you hard. That’s why I’m excited to pay it forward.  When they asked me to teach a cooking class to other patients, I said absolutely.”

During inpatient and now, outpatient, Chuck shows patients how to modify their kitchens and adapt to cooking with a disability. He’s even partnered with a local farmer’s market to offer “Able Chef” cooking demonstrations.

“With the help of RIM, I’ve found my passion of cooking again!”