Max Chepenuk of Cazenovia had his life change instantly in January of 2005, when a ski jump concluded tragically. "I was airlifted to Upstate in the most expensive helicopter ride I will never remember.”
Chepenuk was in a coma for nearly a month. The accident left the right side of his body partially paralyzed, and required years of therapy. But in those years, he was not alone. In April of 2006 he met Connor LaPlant, a then 15-year old facing similar paralysis after a motocross accident. Chepenuk says becoming friends with LaPlant helped both young men get through their therapy.
…"It's just helpful to have someone there as like a friend who's going through the same struggles that you are. And our injuries are so closely related with both being the right size and everything, that it's good. I like it a lot.”
Chepenuk and LaPlant were both extremely active in sports, something they had to put on hold after their injuries. LeMoyne College student LaPlant says it took some time to readjust.
“First I thought I'd be better within a year and I'd be out playing football with my friends and riding dirt bikes, again. But, as time went on and reality started to set in... I was like, this is a different life. I have to live differently and look at things in a new way."
LaPlant says he hasn't tried motocross,again. LaPlant and Chepenuk say the strides they have made in therapy are great, but their progress has been helped substantially by Walk-Aid. The electronic device stimulates neurons in the leg to improve movement for people who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries. The men say the device has helped them move around easier in day-to day activities since they received it last year. LaPlant says he is getting ready to run his second 5-K since the accident. They worked with Clinician Sara Baldwin of Hanger Clinic in Syracuse.