New Jersey born and raised, Jason Bennett has always been a hands-on, outdoor kind of guy. The 38-year old worked as a subcontractor and in his spare time enjoyed fixing cars, doing yardwork, fishing and playing ball with the neighborhood kids. All that changed one afternoon in early March while heading out to visit a friend.
“On the drive there, I swerved to avoid hitting an animal, lost control and hit the trees,” Jason recalled. Airlifted to Cooper Medical Center in Camden, he learned he had sustained a T6 spinal cord injury in the crash. He underwent surgery to stabilize his spine, but the damage was done. Jason was paralyzed from his mid-chest down.
Unable walk or perform routine daily activities, Jason transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Marlton to begin a comprehensive treatment program. The avid swimmer noted that the hospital’s pool was one of the reasons why he and his family chose Kessler.
Kessler’s physician-led team of rehabilitation nurses, physical, occupational and recreation therapists and others tailored a treatment plan to meet Jason’s needs and goal of becoming independent. “I wanted to adapt to my disability [and] return to a life as normal as possible,” he said.
To help rebuild his strength, balance and endurance, Jason’s physical therapists combined proven treatments, exercises and advanced technologies, such as electrical stimulation. He soon learned to use a wheelchair and manage his daily routines with new strategies provided by his occupational therapists, including how to bathe, dress, do laundry and prepare meals safely. He admitted, however, that while he’s “always been a hard worker, I really disliked most these activities at first. It was all so difficult ... and frustrating, but I just kept on trying.”
Jason credits his quick progress to his team, noting “I had therapists who never gave up on me and challenged me every day.”
Jason and his family participated in Kessler’s education and training program in preparation to return home. He believes this played a big part in transitioning to the next phase of the recovery process, which included plans to continue rehabilitation as an outpatient. Most of all, Jason looked forward to being back home, seeing friends and neighbors and going fishing.
Reflecting on his experience at Kessler, Jason said, “It was hard ... not just in the beginning but the entire time and it doesn’t get easier when you go home. Adjusting to a new normal is tough.” He shares this advice for others: “Stay positive and don’t give up. It definitely benefits you in the long run. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the rehab I received. ”