Atlanta, GA,
12:13 PM

Chasing a Dream – One Step at a Time

Shepherd Center patient Quinn Hogan shows positivity can go a long way.

“This is a video of me chasing my dream,” reads the caption on 32-year-old Quinn Hogan’s Facebook page.

Dated May 29th, 2017, the video shows Quinn inching down the hallway at Shepherd Center with the aid of a walker.

The lighting is dim, but there’s no mistaking Quinn’s beaming smile as he makes his way, step by step, toward the camera in front of him. The T-shirt he’s wearing says “Just Do It,” a message so very appropriate for the person Quinn is and the way he approaches life, including the challenges he encounters along the way.

Quinn Hogan had a dream. It was to walk again.

In April 2017, the Tennessee resident was driving to a local gym in Cookeville to lift weights with a group of friends when another vehicle ran a red light and struck Quinn’s car.

When he regained consciousness, Quinn couldn’t feel or move his legs. He was paralyzed from the neck down.

But as he lay there, in the crumpled car, waiting for help, the thoughts racing through Quinn’s mind were not about himself and his suddenly uncertain future. Instead, Quinn was thinking about his coworkers, worrying how they would hold up in his absence.

It’s an example that illustrates the essence of Quinn Hogan, someone who is constantly showing concern for others, reaching out to them and offering words of encouragement, even as he grapples with significant challenges others might find overwhelming.

After the crash, Quinn underwent surgery at Erlanger in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and later transferred to Shepherd Center, for spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

The road ahead of him was daunting, but the 32-year-old makes no secret of his belief in mind over matter.

“If you can put your mind to it, your body will do the rest,” Quinn says, repeating a mantra that he regularly passes along to other patients, or to friends in posts on his Facebook page.

From the first moment Quinn arrived at Shepherd Center, he applied that conviction to his struggle to walk. He never allowed himself to wallow in self-pity, or to arrive at therapy sessions without a positive attitude.

“I would always go to therapy happy,” Quinn recalls. “When you get back to your room, you can be miserable if you want to.”

“I’m a very strong-minded person,” he adds. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to conquer this.’ And I did.”

Within three weeks of arriving at Shepherd, Quinn took his first steps in therapy, on a treadmill, with the help of a harness around his torso.

After about six weeks, Quinn’s therapist told him it was time to try a walker.

Quinn pushed his body up and out of his power wheelchair and took one step with the walker. And then other. Then he took another 10 steps before collapsing back into the chair in exhaustion.

At his next therapy session, Quinn managed 10 more steps. Before long he was up to 20 steps, and then 30 and 40.

Eventually, Quinn started doing laps around Shepherd Center’s hallways at night after all visitors had gone home.

Along the way, he would stop in individual patients’ rooms to offer them encouragement with their own struggles. He talked to all new patients, spending time with them to learn about their stories and offer inspiration, impressing upon them the importance of a positive attitude and hope.

Among those who worked with Quinn during his time at Shepherd Center was Laurie Nash, Ph.D., director of psychology at Shepherd Center. In Quinn, she saw someone who arrived with a can-do attitude, which helped him experience a remarkable recovery.

Dr. Nash also observed a young man who was constantly smiling and reaching out to others, offering words of support to patients about getting the most they could out of rehabilitation.

“I think for all patients, their approach to rehabilitation can have a big impact on recovery,” Dr. Nash says. “While they’re limited by their injury, someone’s ability to take whatever they can get and do the most they can with it really helps. And for Quinn, that came really naturally.”

As Quinn went through his graduation ceremony on his final day at Shepherd Center, he felt wonderful, thinking to himself, “I came in on four, and I’m leaving on two,” meaning that he arrived at Shepherd on a stretcher and was walking out the door on his own two feet.

He strode out of the center into a bright sunny, summer day with his 10-year old son by his side.

Quinn still cannot do everything he did before his accident. His reflexes are not as strong or as quick as they once were. His left leg is a slower than his right. And he has spasms in his hands, leaving him unable to swing a bat with his young son. But like his dream of walking again, he has set his sights on playing ball again with his boy.

“I never really reflected on my injury or blamed anyone else for what happened to me,” Quinn says as he looks back on his experience. “I’ve already forgiven the guy who hit me. To get through what I had to get through, you have to forgive and not dwell on the past. If you think about the past, you can’t succeed in the future.”

Read more here about spinal cord injury rehabilitation at Shepherd Center. 

Written by Mia Taylor
Photos by Louie Favorite

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.