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Spencer’s Story

Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We've created it to keep friends and family updated on Spencer's progress as he recovers from a snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed at age thirteen.  Visit often to read the latest journal entries and write us a message in our guestbook.

Spencer had a serious snowboarding accident at Brighton, Utah on Monday, February 1, 2010. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He broke both his C4 and C5 vertebrae.  Spencer was airlifted off of the mountain to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the hospital, Spencer was intubated and put on a ventilator because he was unable to breathe on his own. Spencer could not feel the needles doctors poked him with to check for sensation. He was paralyzed and could move only his left forearm voluntarily. Doctors gave a grim prognosis; Spencer may never breathe on his own, and would likely never recover sensation or movement. 

Spencer was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident which likely saved him from brain injury or worse. The accident occurred on a bright sunny day on a "cat track" used between runs and not on a steep or difficult run. A trick of light concealed a bump and by the time Spencer saw the bump it was too late to stop and he caught an edge of the board and was catapulted head first into a rock-hard snowbank.  We have been overwhelmed at the generosity, love and support we have received from friends, family and strangers. 

Years later, Spencer is proving doctors wrong and making a stupendous recovery. He has sensation and movement in almost every part of his body, he can write with his left hand, push his own wheelchair, stand and take unassisted steps. He works harder than most athletes to recover what many people take for granted: mobility and independence. He is now going to college at USC on a Swim With Mike scholarship and studying chemical engineering, a dream come true. 

Spencer's progress is a direct result of the four physical therapy sessions and one hand therapy session per week he had for the first four years after the accident. At college, his therapy has been reduced to two long sessions per week. These therapies are vital for Spencer to make neurological connections and continued progress towards independent living.  

Expenses for rehabilitation, hand therapy, and medical equipment are not covered by insurance and exceed $20,000 a year.  Spencer raises funds from the community through HelpHOPELive, in part because HelpHOPELive provides both tax-deductibility and fiscal accountability to contributors. Contributors can be sure that funds contributed will be used only to pay or reimburse medically-related expenses. To make a contribution to Spencer's fundraising campaign:

Make checks payable to:

Note in memo section:In Honor of Spencer Fox

Mail to:HelpHOPELiveTwo Radnor Corporate Center100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100Radnor, PA 19087

For secure credit card donations: Call 800-642-8399 or go to HelpHOPELive.org, enter Patient Name Spencer Fox, and click the "DONATE NOW" button.

For more information, please contact HelpHOPELive at 800-642-8399.

Thanks for your support!

Latest Journal Update

An Attitude of Gratitude

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends as much as we did. Both Spencer and Dane came home for the holiday and we are especially happy to be together now that we all live so far apart. Gratitude runs deep in this family with so much to be thankful for. All of the kids had birthdays in the past three weeks: Spencer is officially an adult at age 18, Ruby is now a teen at age 13 and Dane turned 28. Pictured are Spencer and Ruby on Spencer's 18th birthday.  

We drove up to USC to see Spencer for his birthday, so I thought I would provide a portrait of Spencer as a college student.

Dorm: Spencer has a ground floor dorm room to himself, with extra space for equipment and an extra bed in the event he needs some assistance. His room has internet and cable, so he has both computer and television available. Outside the room is an accessible bathroom with a roll in shower. Spencer has a laundry service for clean clothes. Three other young men share the same suite in the event he needs something. It is working well for Spencer and he is largely living independently. Those who have followed Spencer's story since the beginning can appreciate the accomplishment. 

Academics: Spencer has declared Chemical Engineering as his major, an academically rigorous pursuit. He is currently taking 18.0 units and he will complete his first semester three weeks from now. Spencer does well in his classes and he excels at math and science, so his major is in the right area. Student notetakers provide Spencer with notes from his classes through Disability Services. Spencer then writes his exams. Thus far, his biggest opportunity for improvement is writing term papers. Spencer types with one finger, so lengthy assignments are a challenge. He is planning on again trying voice recognition software, which he tried in the past without good results. Reportedly the software has improved, so it is worth another try.

Rehabilitation: Spencer is fortunate that for the first year ever the Swim With Mike (SWM) program arranged for rehabilitation training at a gym on campus. This saves Spencer and other SWM scholarship recipients a huge amount of time that they would typically spend leaving campus and driving to a rehab facility. His trainers are experienced in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, which is great. The equipment presents limited gait training opportunities, but hopefully as the program grows the gym will allow more specialized equipment. His rehab costs are less than with Project Walk, running $1200 to $1400 a month as opposed to $2000, but that is partly because he simply doesn't have as many hours. Spencer does not currently have any hand therapy available, which is a concern because he already has limited hand mobility and he must stretch and strengthen his hands to reduce pain and maximize dexterity. 

Mobility: Fortunately, USC is a very flat school, making it a great college for Spencer. He uses his wheelchair to get around the campus, but it is probably not the best solution. Once Spencer ventures out for a day of classes in his wheelchair, he stays in his chair, which is not optimal, as he would prefer to use his chair over long distances and walk short distances. Wheelchairs can be very hard on the shoulders. Because Spencer has a choice, it would be great if he could minimize repetitive use of his shoulders and maximize short distance walking. Ideally he would have a motorized device to get from building to building and then walk into each classroom. Spencer tried an electric scooter, but it was not stable enough for him to use safely. We are continuing to explore options and new mobility devices are coming on the market all the time, ranging from Seqway type scooters to powered devices that hook on to the front of his wheelchair. Likewise, the options range in price and insurance does not cover most of them. Meanwhile, for long distances Spencer does have his car at school with him, which allows the freedom to get things he needs off campus.

In sum, I never cease to marvel at the miracle of Spencer's story. I remember daily the grim prognosis and I think about what could have been, yet here he is on the front end of a great education and on the path to living totally independently. What magic recipe created this feast for which we are so grateful? Spencer gets the credit for tenacity and effort, but it wouldn't have happened without all of you. Thank you. Again. 

December 2 is Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is part of a nationwide effort to dedicate a day to giving. It is a day to highlight philanthropic efforts and charities big and small. It is a day to emphasize helping your community. HelpHOPELive will be waiving the credit card fees on all on-line donations for Giving Tuesday. For those interested and able, please consider supporting Spencer's medical equipment and rehabilitation costs through a tax deductible donation to HelpHOPELive in honor of Spencer Fox: https://m.helphopelive.org/campaign/1248

Happy Holidays!

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3 Comentarios

Mark Easbey
By Mark Easbey
Spencer, love that you are doing so well, and I knew you would! Thanks Celia for the updates into Spencer's adventures. Let me check around with the resources I have and see if I can come up with some suggestions for voice recognition. Keep up the good work!
1 person hearted this
Jennifer Klimowicz
By Jennifer Klimowicz
Hi Celia! I broke my arm earlier this year and got Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance software--- worked great for sending emails and writing text (less great for anything requiring lots of mouse clicks). The most impressive feature by far was when it recognized my colleagues' unusual names when was dictating an email to them (Zorana and Attila). I believe they have a free 30 day demo. I was really impressed and would highly recommend it!
1 person hearted this
Doan Hohmeyer
By Doan & the girls
Spencer, USC, and Swim With Mike... a wonderful combination. USC is fortunate to have such a talented student, and from your description and the pictures I have seen Spencer is flourishing. Much to be grateful for indeed. Exciting times ahead! Thank you for keeping us up to date and as always let us know if there is anything we can help with.
1 person hearted this