Anthony Purcell broke his neck in Miami on Super Bowl weekend 2010 after jumping in the ocean and hitting a sand bar. He was paralyzed from the chest down.
Upon learning he had a spinal cord injury, Purcell went into a depression. A year and a half later, the 23-year-old has a new outlook on life. He's focused not only on his own recovery at Project Walk in Carlsbad, but on the recovery of others who have spinal cord injuries as well.
He and his mother, Micki, started the nonprofit Walking with Anthony. Their foundation helps raise money to pay for spinal cord recovery. "Insurance doesn’t cover this injury,” Micki explained. “Typically, [after an] average of 20 days you are sent home to live the rest of your life in a wheelchair. After being involved with Project Walk, I realize you don't have to live in a wheelchair. These people can get healthier, they can live independently, they can get stronger and many, many will walk again. However, it costs a ton of money."
Recovery programs at facilities such as Project Walk can take between five to 10 years and cost $100,000 a year, Micki added.
Purcell has regained full sensation and is continuing his recovery with hopes of one day walking again, but realizes "the little goals are more important. It’s not the end result, it’s the journey which makes it happen. ... When I came to Project Walk, I was a noodle and now I’m bench-pressing 140 pounds. It's a huge improvement."