• State: Oklahoma
  • Diagnosis: traumatic spinal cord injury
  • Date of injury: May 19, 2006

When the doctors told me Conner would never be able to walk again or be able to breathe on his own again, I was devastated, to say the least. Conner has an incomplete C1, 2 and 3 spinal cord injury. The wreck that took Conner’s mobility also took the lives of my husband and 6-year-old son. Conner was only 20 months old.

Connor McDougall

Doctors pushed me to let Conner go. According to their medical opinions, Conner would never have any quality of life. They told me he would be completely paralyzed from the neck down, would have chronic pneumonia that would eventually take his life, and would never be able to take one single breath on his own. They told me I was being selfish by continuing on with his life. I decided to believe that God had a better plan for Conner’s life. A purpose and a future! I decided where there is life, I was going to choose life.

After lots of research, it became clear: Kennedy Krieger’s cutting-edge therapy was just what we were looking for.

Connor McDougall

“Vegetable,” “quadriplegic,” “nonmobile”—these are words we were told would define Conner’s life after the accident. At Kennedy Krieger, we learned new words like physical and occupational therapy, e-stem and activity-based restorative therapy (ABRT). Now, almost 14 years later, Conner has exceeded all the things I was told he would never be able to do. Conner can use his arms to roll from his side to his back, he has regained his head control, he has better trunk control, we have seen him kick his legs, he is also able to be off the vent up to six hours a day with his diaphragmatic pacers, and he has a spirit full of joy. He has changed the way his specialist now look at a spinal cord injury patient. They no longer say that there is no hope for a spinal cord injury.

Health-wise, Conner has done tremendously well over the years. In almost 14 years, he has never had pneumonia and barely had any respiratory issues. He has never had bed sores. These are things we were told he would battle due to such a high-level injury. We attribute this to Kennedy Krieger teaching us the therapy to continue to do from home. We come to Kennedy Krieger twice a year for a two-week session of outpatient physical and occupational therapy. Conner has the RTI leg and arm bike, stander and other therapy equipment we use diligently at home.

The hardest part of Kennedy Krieger for us is the expense of the travel and lodging. Living in Oklahoma, we have to do fundraisers to continue to go to Kennedy Krieger, as insurance covers the two weeks of therapy every six months, but it doesn’t cover our other expenses.

Our therapists have become like family to us over the years, and their passion for Conner and the progress he has made, and continues to make, is worth all the hard work it takes to continue to go there. While at Kennedy Krieger, his therapists work with him for four hours a day. They push him beyond his limits. They truly want the best for Conner. To witness the growth that takes place in Conner in just two weeks every time we come is truly amazing! Conner still has a long journey ahead, but every day continues to make progress.

We want to give Conner the best possible chance at a future. That begins with continuing of our trips to Kennedy Krieger. We believe this will be the key to Conner gaining his independence one day. With the help of Kennedy Krieger therapists, we will continue to strengthen his arms, legs, trunk and head until we fulfill all of our goals.

– Sonya McDougall, Connor’s mother