Shane’s Story: Determined to Walk Again

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"It was really scary. I didn't really know what to think at the time,” Shane Homan says.

Shane loves football. “It was just the atmosphere I guess, and just being around all my friends and us doing what we loved most. From when I was younger, I was always watching the Brown's games. My older brother played, so I kinda just wanted to take after him.”

Shane recalls what happened to him while playing football. “It was a Saturday morning, I was playing a JV football game and I ran. I caught a pass, turned up field and saw a guy from St. Mary's hit me. It was a solid hit, it was nothing dirty or anything and then that's when I went down and a couple of my buddies tried to help me back up and I just told them, ‘I can't move my legs, I can't get up.’”

“I saw his arms flailing and his legs were not moving, they stayed in one position the whole time,” says Shane’s mother, Tara Homan. “So I'm starting to panic, and people are going down there and I'm asking Jeff, ‘Why aren't his legs moving?’"

Shane says he was taken to Mercer Health via ambulance from Coldwater, where they did an MRI and completed some tests. He was then flown via CareFlight Air and Mobile Services to Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton’s only Level I Trauma Center.

“We do a systematic evaluation, which includes a physical exam and then imaging, CT scans, to make sure there are no other injuries,” says Mbaga Walusimbi, MD, MS, FACS, trauma surgeon. “We did the emergency examination, kept him immobilized and then did the imaging to further localize the actual area of injury.”

Peter Letarte, MD, FACS, FAANS, neurosurgeon, further explains Shane’s condition. “He had dislocated his spine above T4 from the spine below T4, and that slipped forward. The process of slipping forward was then pinching his spinal cord.”

“He was young, he was stable, he had gotten a good trauma survey,” Dr. Letarte adds. “That's why you have trauma systems, that's why you have trauma teams. They could assure me that he was stable and so I could take him quickly to the operating room and decompress him.”

Dr. Letarte says the team took the bones off the back of Shane’s spinal cord to take the pressure off of it. “And then I stabilized him by putting screws from T3 down to T7, spanning the T4/5 area where he was dislocated,” he says.

Jeff Homan, Shane’s father, remembers how his wife Tara stayed by Shane’s side. “Tara would stay, you know, a couple nights in a row at least. And then, I would come down for a night to take her place, so she could go home and take care of stuff at the house. And then she'd come back down for a couple more days again and we just kind of rotated around when she was there.”

Upon prognosis, Shane was told there was a 20% chance that he would walk again.

“I just took that as motivation and just was like, I don't want to be in this chair for the rest my life,” Shane says. “So, I wanted to push myself and get back up on my feet as fast as I can.”

Dr. Walusimbi explains that initially, Shane went to inpatient rehab to learn to live with the injury.

Dona Speakman, PTA, inpatient physical therapy, says, “I always tell patients, whether they're here for a spinal cord injury, brain injury, whatever, that part of the job is physical. There's that physical component of needing to get better, but there's also the emotional struggle of dealing with the new normal.”

“One thing I let him know, that where he's headed, that point, was not the end all,” Dona continues. “That it wasn't always going to be as bad as it is right now. That the future will tell us how far we get with that injury, but for now, we can help him so he can be able to get himself in and out of bed, in and out of a wheelchair, maybe we can try standing. Anything that we can do, we're going to do.”
Throughout this journey, Shane and his family have found continuous support from their community.

“Everybody's just done so much,” Tara says. “His accident happened on a Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and by that Monday night they had reached all of the MAC schools in the area. So they formed a human shield with the number nine on the inside, which is Shane's number.”

Tara says that the football boosters hold a fundraiser every year to benefit the organization, and after Shane’s accident they donated the money they raised to Shane and his family.

“We had to move walls to make the bathroom bigger, put new doors in for wider doors, make a ramp to get into the house,” Jeff recalls. “My buddy was over about two days after it happened, looking to see what he had to do [to help].”

With hard work and determination, Shane continues to make progress toward his goal of walking again.

“Everybody there at Miami Valley was great, the therapists, the nurses, the doctors, they were all great,” Shane says.

Tara and Jeff appreciated Doctor Letarte’s candid assessment of Shane’s condition. “he was very good,” Tara says.

“He didn't sugarcoat anything, and that's what you liked about him,” Jeff adds. “He just told you straight out, you know, what you can expect. And that’s what I like to hear.”

“He said, ‘your son’s going to do some big things, whether he walks or not. He’s going to do something with this,” Tara says. “And I was like, ‘I agree 100 percent.’”

Dr. Letarte believes that you need to be honest. “You need to look at the challenges in your life or you’ll never confront them. But you need to do it in a way that doesn’t strip hope away. And so I tell people, I love being proved wrong.”

“Some days are more difficult than others, and this was difficult,” Dr. Walusimbi says. “The way he reacted to the injury, knowing what had occurred, kind of helped all of us to have to settle down and feel better. Sometimes you get bad sleep, nightmares, about this type of injury that we take care of.  And that helps us, at least for me, to come back the following day.”

Dona says that Shane did so great, he agreed to come back and be a peer mentor. “We have someone around the same age, with similar injury, we have someone who has an injury like that to come in and give firsthand information from what they’ve learned, how rough the process is. They let others know that hey, it can get better.”

Shane says he’s had a lot of improvement. “When I left the hospital, I had no movement at all in my legs or anything, and by now, I've been up at therapy with a walker and then to therapy assistance, so, really progressing.”

Jeff says that Shane has his head and his hands and arms, so he can do pretty much anything he wants.

“Just gotta do it a little bit differently,” Tara says.

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