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In My Own Words: John Manison
John Manison is an 18-year-old freshman at Ashland University in Ohio. He is dedicated to his rehabilitation at Kennedy Krieger’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury and focused on achieving therapy goals en route to living his life without a wheelchair.
In November 2009 I felt a sudden, severe pain in my legs. I was diagnosed with a disease called transverse myelitis, which attacked my spinal cord and paralyzed me from the waist down. I had some feeling in my legs, like pins and needles, but I had no movement whatsoever. I started coming to Kennedy Krieger for intensive therapy four to five hours a day. Thanks to my amazing therapists and because I was religious about continuing therapy at home, I made a lot of progress. I started walking with crutches, but at first I was straining really hard to get anywhere. Now I have 65 to 70 percent of my function back.
Kennedy Krieger is like my second home. I love it here, and I love the people here. I have a special connection with Stephanie Jordan, who was my first therapist, and Sara Shippen, my current therapist, is absolutely amazing—I couldn’t ask for anyone better to motivate and push me.
Before I was in a wheelchair, I wasn’t a competitive swimmer, but I’ve always loved the water. One of my goals has always been to letter in a sport, so I decided that swimming for my high school team was a way to achieve that goal. I qualified for districts and swam in the 200-meter medley. After qualifying for districts, I wanted to see what happened if I swam against people with disabilities. I ended up placing fourth in the nation in the 50-meter freestyle. This year, I’m swimming for my college at Ashland University, and I’m hoping to represent my country in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
In October, I ran the Baltimore half-marathon on crutches. I knew if I told myself I would do it, I would, even if I had to crawl across the finish line.
My inspiration is Patrick Rummerfield, who not only learned to walk again after quadriplegia, but went on to run the Antarctica Marathon and compete in the Ironman triathlon. His is one of the most moving stories on the planet.
My advice to others is, don’t let others tell you “you can’t.” If you want to do it, do it. You can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it.