Mother, son hosting fundraiser for spinal cord injury victims

Posted: October 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Anthony Purcells voice grows strained when he speaks about that February 2010 day that changed his life. Back in Florida visiting cousins, he dove into the water off South Beach and crashed into a sandbar.

I thought I was going to die, he recalls.

He didnt. A cousin rescued him, but he was left paralyzed, with a broken neck and two bruised vertebrae. He spent six weeks at Jackson Memorial Hospitals intensive care unit, most of it in a medically induced coma. His lungs collapsed 17 times.

But he was lucky. He began intense rehabilitation as soon as he was able to, and that has made all the difference. Thats why Purcell, 24, and his mother, Micki, founded Walking with Anthony, a foundation to help others get the same kind of rehab that has helped Purcell progress to where he can stand with the help of a walker and bench press 190 pounds.

When I first went into rehab, he says, I was like a noodle. I couldnt even sit up.

Walking with Anthony will host its first local fundraising gala Nov. 2 from 7 to 11 p.m. in Hangar 9 at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. During the event, called South Florida Movement for Change: Its Time to Soar, the non-profit will present grants to Nick Williams and Chris Hickox, who were student-athletes at Cardinal Gibbons High School when Purcell was a varsity basketball player there. A 2008 car accident left Williams paralyzed from the waist down and a 2009 ATV accident left Hickox with a spinal cord injury.

The money donated to the young men will help them receive treatment at the Project Walk Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center in Carlsbad, Calif., where Purcell rehabilitates.

You need rehab immediately, says Micki Purcell. The faster, the better. Ive seen that with my own son, and I cant imagine someone else not being able to do that for their own.

The fundraiser will also honor Dr. Allan Levin, Purcells surgeon and chief of neurospine service at Jackson Memorial. Former NFL player and University of Miami star Kevin Everett, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2007 while playing for the Buffalo Bills, is serving as honorary chair with his wife, Wiande.

The Purcells decided to launch the foundation when they realized that, while millions of dollars were earmarked for spinal cord injury research, there was little financial help for patients to receive rehab. Most victims of the devastating injury have limited resources and, if they have insurance, are usually covered for about 20 days.

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Mother, son hosting fundraiser for spinal cord injury victims

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