Neuroworx Foundation

Editor’s note: As a Physician, Dr Dale Hull was used to helping patients. When his life literally turned upside down after a fall on a trampoline, Dr. Hull had to re-learn everything. After his recovery, he knew he wanted to continue helping patients, but in a different way. Part 5 of 5 part series. 

I’m still partially paralyzed from my chest down, and I walk with a cane. Walking has become a very conscious act for me. When I’m familiar with my surroundings, I walk without a cane. When I’m out and about, I use my cane to prevent being accused of being under the influence. So I am known as a walking clod.  I am fairly independent. I can drive myself where I want to go. I’d needed 2 ½ years in my recovery to become an Olympic torch bearer. During my recovery, I had been asked to go see quite a few people who had injuries similar to mine. Everyone wanted to know, “How did you get so much function back? What did you do to get all the physical therapy you needed?” During the time that Jan Black was working with me, she was also working with other people who wanted more therapy. Jan had worked with spinal cord injured people her entire career, and she knew that there was a better way to help people get more function, and she wanted her own clinic. Jan and I began to talk about why someone hadn’t started a special clinic, devoted exclusively to people with spinal cord injuries. We began to think that if we partnered and decided to create such a clinic, how could we make it happen.

My wife, Jan Black, Dr. Wally Lee, an emergency room physician who became a paraplegic in 2002, and I formed the Hull Foundation in November of 2003 to create a state-of-the-art spinal cord and neurology recovery center called Neuroworx. We’re a community based life and therapy center that focuses primarily on spinal-cord injuries, but we also have attracted quite a few people with brain injuries, strokes and other neurological conditions. We are trying to be very innovative and aggressive in what we offer to our clients. If you were to get injured today, you probably only would be eligible for 20 outpatient visits per year, and each one of those sessions only would account for 50 minutes of billable time (the amount of time that an insurance company would pay the physical therapist to work with you). If you had a torn rotator cuff in your shoulder, you would get 20 visits to help rehabilitate that injury. At the same time, if you broke your neck and damaged your spinal cord, you still only would receive about 20 visits.

Our foundation gives individuals an extraordinary amount of time for their rehabilitation. We may bill the insurance company for 50 minutes, but the individual actually may be here for 2 or 2 1/2-hours. We created Neuroworx as a nonprofit to try and give people as much therapy as they need, and not just the amount of therapy that we can bill an insurance company. We want to give people the ability to reach their highest level of function. But we are not miracle workers. What we have learned is that if we make individuals’ spirits walk, we have done a great thing. If we can help them obtain a small degree of independence, that can be a quantum leap for the rest of their lives. Since we give supplemental care above what an insurance company will pay for, we have to do fundraising. So, we write grants, solicit funds and do whatever we can to get our patients funding for additional help. We try to do as much charity care as possible.

We have attracted some benevolent contributions from organizations like the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which gave us a quality-of-life grant. We were very honored when the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation asked us to become a part of their neuro-recovery network. Currently there are six research facilities and five community-fitness-and-wellness centers. We are one of those five community-fitness-and-wellness centers. Part of the purpose of these community-fitness-and-wellness centers is to demonstrate that exercise can help enable people with spinal-cord injuries to get back into their communities and be healthier and have fewer medical problems, because, they have a regimen of exercise. In 2004, Jan Black and I were the only ones involved in the foundation, and we had an empty room. We had a pair of hand weights, a blue therapy mat and a red therapy ball. We were using local swimming pools for aquatic therapy. Now, we have 10,000 feet of space, lots of specialized equipment and a staff of 10. Actually we’re out of space, now. What we hope to do is to build our own building and become the best outpatient facility for spinal cord and neurologic injuries in the nation.

For more information on NeuroWorx go to http://www.neuroworx.org/ or go to their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Neuroworx.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

Dr. Dale Hull’s Olympic Dream

Editor’s Note: As a Physician, Dr Dale Hull was used to helping patients. When his life literally turned upside down after a fall on a trampoline, Dr. Hull had to re-learn everything. After his recovery, he knew he wanted to continue helping patients, but in a different way. Part 4 of 5 part series.

In 2001, my recovery had progressed to the point that I could use arm crutches, and I was starting to get finger and wrist function. I was making an extraordinary amount of progress. About that time, I realized that I needed a new goal to strive for. The 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City, Utah, and the International Olympic Committee announced that they were going to allow ordinary citizens to carry the Olympic torch. So, I told my therapist, Jan, that my new goal was to be an Olympic torch bearer. But I didn’t want to carry the Olympic torch in a wheelchair, I wanted to walk and carry the torch. As a matter of fact, if I could run, I wanted to run with the torch and carry it in my own hands without any kind of assistive device. But, even with the progress I had already made, this new goal was a seemingly impossible task. I was still partially numb, in my right hand, which was the hand I used to hold things. That function would disappear at any given moment and I would drop whatever I was holding. For someone like me, the idea of carrying a 3-1/2-pound Olympic torch with gloves on in the cold and not dropping it was a very big deal. My goal became Jan’s goal. I contacted everyone I knew, asked them to write letters to the Olympic Committee nominating me to be a torch bearer.

In July of 2001, I learned that I would be a torch bearer. I only had 6 months to get my body and my mind ready to carry the Olympic torch. Jan put together a plan of exercise and therapy to condition me to accomplish this feat. I took one of my son’s baseball bats and strapped an ankle weight to the bat to replicate the weight of the torch. I knew I had to walk .2 of a mile and carry the torch. Jan and I would go to a high school track, and I would practice walking around that track holding the baseball bat with the ankle weight attached to it. I had to learn how to balance myself, how to change hands with the torch and how to perform every task that would be required of a torch bearer. I had to prepare my body for the Olympic torch walk in addition to my normal therapy routine. About 2 weeks before I was supposed to carry the torch, a friend who had carried the Olympic torch in Texas let me borrow her real Olympic torch. I practiced carrying it and did everything I could to prepare for this event.

My turn to carry the torch was on February 8th, which was the last day of the torch carrying. I was far down the line of torch bearers and close to the stadium where the torch would be used to light the Olympic flame. I invited hundreds of people to cheer me along. I knew carrying the Olympic torch would be an unbelievable experience, and in that brief moment, I knew that the entire world would be watching me.

48 hours before the event, I was told I was moving back 2/10th of a mile. I was upset by this news because I didn’t have time to call everyone and let them know I wouldn’t be at original place. I didn’t realize until the day of the torch ceremony that because of the move, I’d be passing the torch to one of the most famous basketball players in the history of basketball, Karl Malone.

For more information on NeuroWorx go to http://www.neuroworx.org/ or go to their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Neuroworx.

Next: The Neuroworx Foundation

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com