Recovery from pool accident continues

By | September 22, 2010

After spending six days in intensive care at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Hippert was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “With Andrew’s original injury he was not moving his arms or his legs,” said Dr. Yazbak. “Typically if somebody comes in not moving their arms and legs and stays like that for the first few days, they’re probably not going to get substantial recovery back.”

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Andrew Hippert, whose parents are members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, stands with the help of forearm canes. Hippert continues his recovery following a pool diving accident in May 2009. He recently moved to San Diego to begin new therapy. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Defying the odds, Hippert slowly regained the use of his limbs.

Hippert was in Chicago for just under two months. He said he had to learn how to deal with the injury, “and how to stretch and exercise and all kinds of stuff.”

“When I came home, I made my own little gym and worked out every day and then finally felt a little burned out doing it all alone so we reached out and found the Shepherd’s Center in Atlanta. We spent five-and-a-half months there doing a program called the NeuroRecovery Network.” This program was designed to provide and develop therapies to promote functional recovery and improve the health and quality of life for people living with paralysis.

“It’s basically a weight-assisted treadmill program where they harness you up and then you’re suspended over a treadmill so they take some of the weight off of your body and you can walk,” noted Hippert. “When I first got there they took away 60 percent of my body weight and then I would walk and when I left they were only taking away 25 percent and I was walking on my own one mile per hour and with assistance three miles per hour.”

Even though Hippert is able to walk now using forearm canes, his classification hasn’t changed. “I am still a quadriplegic because my upper body and my lower body are affected.”

The next destination for him is a place in San Diego called Project Walk. “It’s a very different place than all the other centers. It’s more like an Anytime Fitness for spinal cord injuries. It has 15,000 square feet of equipment and they have a lot of trainers. Initially I will do three- or four-hour sessions probably three or four days a week,” said Hippert.

The plan for Hippert is to spend one more year dedicated full time to his recovery. His hope is to be walking without the canes by next summer.

Through this whole ordeal Hippert’s girlfriend, Kalli Laflin, has been by his side. “She’s absolutely amazing,” said Hippert. “This has really brought our love together tenfold. Both of us are just ecstatic about each other.” Several weeks ago Hippert was able to declare his love for Kalli in front of a large group of family members and friends by dropping down on one knee and asking for her hand in marriage.

Countless prayers have been said for Hippert since the word got out about his injury. His parents, Norman and Kathy Hippert, are members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc and members of People of Praise. Their group has worked overtime praying on Andrew’s behalf.

Hippert’s mom said Andrew’s determination to work as hard as he does is a miracle.

“He’ll always be a quadriplegic but he continues to strive to get the most out of these first two years after the accident because that’s when the majority of the improvement comes,” said Kathy. “He’s optimistic. He’s constantly researching and he continues to look to the future.”

“People have been incredibly gracious,” said Hippert. “Not just financially but in physical support and donating material and time. I’ve always had a good faith but seeing people praying for me does make me feel closer to God.”

“To me the important part is that Andrew’s life has been rededicated to the Lord,” concluded Kathy. “He knows that the whole thing is salvation. My wish for him for the future is that he loves and serves the Lord with his life. That’s all. That’s what we all should be doing.”

To follow Hippert’s recovery, go to his blog.

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