Corben Brooks seeing progress

Skye Kinkade
Corben Brooks

After suffering a devastating spinal cord injury last year, Mount Shasta’s Corben Brooks is continuing to stay strong as he participates in Project Walk – an intense physical therapy program based out of San Diego­ that’s specifically designed for people with spinal cord injuries.

“It’s all about trying to move things that don’t move yet... about making connections,” Corben said.

Thanks to Project Walk and the various other therapies he participates in, Corben now has increased sensation in his toes, feet and legs, and when he tries to move paralyzed areas, he feels tingling – all good signs, he said.

Though he’s always had some use of his arms, Corben’s condition is categorized as quadriplegic, since his C-5, C-6 spinal cord injury affected all four of his limbs. However, as he continues therapy, the movement in his arms has become much more coordinated.

“I think I’m stronger, and in a better mind set,” Corben said of his condition today as compared with last year. “I’m getting better fast, ahead of schedule from what they told me at first... my triceps are starting to come back, and that’s something I didn’t have at all.”

Corben is also undergoing alternate therapies, such as acupuncture and hyperbaric therapy, where his body receives 100 percent oxygen.

He travels to Chico about once a month to spend 90 leisurely minutes per session in a hyperbaric chamber, which is supposed to promote stem cell growth, increase circulation and reduce swelling and scar tissue.

Corben and his family continue to research cutting edge technology and treatment options which may help him in the future.

His injury occurred in August 2008, during a football scrimmage at Mount Shasta High School, where he was just beginning his senior year. He was immediately taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center, Mt. Shasta, and later flown to Mercy Medical Center in Redding.

During his recovery, Corben spent time at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose and at Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento before returning home to Mount Shasta in December of last year.

The community rallied behind Corben, organizing successful dinners, auctions and other fundraisers to help his family with medical expenses and the cost of treatment.

Soon after returning home, Corben began Project Walk. Since January of last year, he has travelled to San Diego three times to take part in rigorous 10-week sessions.

“In San Diego [at Project Walk], it’s not just yourself,” Corben said. “There’s typically eight or ten others there at the center at the same time. It’s nice to be able to talk with people who are in the same situation as I am.”

During Project Walk sessions, Corben does mat exercises, total gym workouts, a hand cycle and sit ups – all of which help him build muscle and encourage spinal cord repair.

“When I first [began Project Walk], I couldn’t roll over, I couldn’t sit up,” Corben said on a video clip online at www.projectwalk.org that tracks his recovery. “Now I can roll over, sit up on my own, have great posture and can push myself pretty much anywhere I want to go... just everything’s better. My confidence is through the roof now. I?came in not happy where I?was... I?think it’s just a great place.”

In June, Corben graduated alongside his MSHS classmates.

While he’s at home, his physical therapist, Lisa Pigoni, helps him continue the Project Walk regimen twice a week – something Corben said he appreciates, as many of the physical therapy programs he tried at first concentrated on the basics, such as learning how to transfer to and from a wheelchair.

Though those skills are important, Corben has set his sights much higher. He wants to regain the use of his legs.

Throughout his ordeal, Corben said he’s often felt grateful that things haven’t been as bad as they could have been.

“When I got to Santa Clara after the accident, they told me that only one in 20 people with my injury are in as good a condition as I?was... lots of people with C-5 injuries have to be on ventilators, and they catch pneumonia in the hospital. I’ve been pretty well off... I got out of ICU really quick and was off pain medication the day after my surgery. Everything’s been okay.”

Corben’s mom, Ronna, expressed her gratitude to the community that has been so generous to her family during their time of hardship.

“We just want to let everyone know that we’re so appreciative of what they’ve done for us... we’ve been so blessed.”

If you’d like to track Corben’s recovery, or learn more about Project Walk, visit www.projectwalk.org