Patty's Story

Spinal Cord Injury

RIM patient refuses to accept life in a wheelchair and walks again

Patty Volpe-Hurtig was busy cleaning in September 2014, when she felt her back snap. She took a pain killer and was back at it. But, over the course of the next two days, her pain continued until she felt aPatty2017-11 second snap and knew she had problems.

“I was holding onto the bed when the paramedics arrived. The pain was so severe I couldn’t move.”

She was taken to an area hospital, where doctors discovered she had cancer and a tumor. That tumor had fractured her spine. After surgery to remove it, and rods, a cage and pins put in, she was told she would never walk again.

“I didn’t even know I had cancer. I was rushed in for emergency surgery and, after, told a wheelchair was the best I could expect for the rest of my life. I was in complete shock.”

Fortunately, one of the doctors treating her cancer also took interest in her disability. She contacted DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) and Patty was accepted for inpatient rehabilitation.

“Being at RIM was amazing. I went in only being able to pivot in my seat. They were caring and inventive and during my four week stay, they gave me my life back.  I have dignity again.”

For a month, she did physical and occupational therapy five days a week. Patty learned to transfer, shower, and dress. She then continued with outpatient therapy at RIM's Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, where she started walking with the help of the Ekso robotic exoskeleton.

Today, she works out on her own at RIM's Brasza Fitness Center and is happy to prove doctors wrong. For the first time in nearly two years, she recently walked into her parent’s home with only a walker. 

“The Rehab Institute means everything to me. They’re unbelievable. They got me back.”