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Life Lessons

The lessons Chris Port learned during rehabilitation at Shepherd Center influenced his approach to life.

The summer before his senior year in high school, Chris Port worked full-time at a warehouse. In the evenings, he played summer league basketball or worked out in preparation for another season of sports. He was, he says, “burning the candle at both ends.”

One morning in late July, he dozed off while driving and hit a telephone pole, sustaining a C-2 to C-4 level spinal cord injury (SCI). Chris was taken to DeKalb Medical Center (now Emory Decatur Hospital) in Decatur, Georgia, and after a brief stay, he transferred to Shepherd Center. He had spinal fusion surgery at Piedmont Hospital and began rehabilitation at Shepherd.

He says when he arrived at Shepherd, he felt invincible and, therefore, somewhat resistant to therapy.

“As a 17-year-old high school athlete, I thought, ‘I'll be fine. All these things you want to teach me, we'll push that off because I'm going to be okay,’” Chris explains. “And the therapists had an incredible way of accepting that attitude, but then pushing at the right time and getting 110% out of me and whatever was possible to get out of my body.”

So, Chris and his care team got to work.

“Shepherd gets you into doing things so fast from a therapeutic perspective, from a mental perspective, and ultimately trying to normalize whatever normal is going to be,” he remembers.

When he left Shepherd, Chris finished his senior year in high school and then studied at Georgia Tech. After graduating, he worked in management consulting, living in Japan for a year. He went on to get his MBA from Duke University. Chris eventually regained full movement on the right side of his body and limited movement on the left side. He walks with a cane and sometimes uses a wheelchair to play basketball or rugby. He’s continued to push himself and credits Shepherd with his willingness to face challenges. 

Now 51, Chris is married with two children and a successful career. He just started a new company and is looking forward to new adventures in life. As he reflects upon the past, he says that the lessons he learned at Shepherd Center helped him live the life he always imagined.

“Shepherd provided me with an even stronger foundation for pushing through challenging things and challenging myself. So much of how I approach every day was born back in that summer of 1989.”

Written by Ruth Underwood




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.