Antioch Man Works to Recover from Spinal Cord Injury

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee A. Litas

He never even knew what a quadriplegic was, but for 36-year-old Antioch resident Eric Knutson that knowledge came with a price.

On July 8, 2007, while hosting a party for his wife, Jacqui Barabas, at his childhood home on the Chain-O-Lakes, Knutson dove off a tree swing and into the water effectively breaking his C-4 spinal vertebrae which left him paralyzed and unable to move from the neck down.

"I saw a flash of light and I tried to get up out of the water, but I couldn't move anything but my head. It was pretty scary," recalled Knutson.

Barabas immediately jumped into the water, turned him over and held him until the ambulance arrived. Knutson was airlifted to the Froedtert Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. After reviewing his X-rays, the doctors broke the devastating news.

"They told us he would never walk again; that he was lucky to be alive because just a fraction of an inch higher and his windpipe would have been crushed," said Barabas who describes Knutson as the ever "energetic, do-it-yourself kind of guy" who had enjoyed an active lifestyle prior to the accident, playing soccer and keeping up with his 8-year-old daughter, Jenna.

Following eight grueling hours on the operating table where the doctors fused his second vertebrae to his sixth using two titanium rods, Knutson spent three weeks recovering in the Neural Intensive Care Unit and then an additional six weeks at the Froedtert rehabilitation center.

During Knutson's recovery, a minor miracle happened; he started to get some feeling back in his limbs. This led the doctors to reclassify him as an "incomplete" spinal cord injury case.

According to the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale, people with complete injuries, those consisting of complete loss of muscle control and sensation and no motor or sensory function, may recover, on average, only 8 percent of their lost function. …