Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

Dad Films Recovery Milestones for Teen with Spinal Cord Injury

From his first steps after injury to climbing the "Rocky" steps, Parker Haller, 19, continues to inspire.

On July 27, 2012, Parker Haller, 19, of Woodbridge, Va., sustained a C-4 to -5 incomplete spinal cord injury when he leapt over an ocean wave off the Maryland coast and hit a sandbar head-first. Before two rods, eight screws and countless hours of physical therapy, the first doctors to examine Parker gave him a 4 percent chance of walking again.

Parker, though, is an odds-beater. Just take a look at the videos on his dad’s YouTube channel. There’s Parker, two years ago, standing unaided for three minutes. There he is, a year ago, walking with a cane for the first time. And then a couple months back, walking unassisted as part of a spinal cord injury research group at George Mason University.

“Anything involving my recovery, my dad’s filming it,” Parker says. “He shares the videos with other families who are going through similar recoveries. They can study them if they’re helpful – and I can, too. They show me what I can keep working on.”

They also show how far he’s come. This past summer, to mark the three-year anniversary of his injury, Parker’s dad recorded him climbing the 72 stone steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art – better known as the "Rocky" steps from the Sylvester Stallone movie classic.

A month earlier, another video preserved an even more momentous moment. Parker had established graduation as a major goal – not just to graduate on time (which he did, with honors), but also to walk across the stage to receive his diploma. Mission accomplished.

This past fall, Parker started taking online college courses and hopes to attend college in person this spring. His career interests range from civil engineering to film criticism. Parker’s stayed on the move, too. He’s learning how to drive a car and competing in long-distance handcycle races.

“When I was at Shepherd Center, the staff were great with the physical recovery, of course, but they also did a great job with the mental side, by being very encouraging,” Parker says. “Someone there told me the recovery process would be a marathon, not a sprint. I definitely feel like a marathoner now!”

By Phillip Jordan

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.