Man Vows to Make the Most Out of Life After Spinal Cord Injury
Matthew Hoogestraat of Bellingham, Washington, sayas lessons learned at Shepherd Center still motivate him.
Matthew Hoogestraat, 33, from Bellingham, Washington, has what he calls “a classic ‘How did you end up at Shepherd Center?’ story.”
He was 16, a passenger in a car full of friends, when it rolled over and the roof crushed in “just where I was.” He broke his C-5 vertebra and was paralyzed from the chest down.
Matt transferred three weeks later from a local hospital in Washington to Shepherd Center. He was completely immobilized, with no idea what was to come.
“What I appreciated about Shepherd is that it was like an everyday thing,” Matt says. “Everybody knew what to do. It was comforting. There were no gray areas. Everybody had seen this a thousand times.”
Matt stayed in the adolescent rehabilitation program for almost three months. He took classes to keep up with schoolwork. He then spent another couple months in outpatient therapy.
Matt returned home to Washington and graduated on time. He then got an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering and worked for a company that made custom machinery. He took night classes whenever he could.
When his company moved out of state eight years later, Matt thought, “This is my moment to go back to school.”
He returned to Western Washington University and in the spring of 2018, he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design. Projects that he and his class worked on won a number of prestigious design awards.
Matt now runs Granular Design, an independent firm that primarily helps entrepreneurs bring projects to market, and he teaches a computer-aided design class at Western Washington.
Beyond that: “I have adventures with my wife, hang out with my dog, work around the house, travel – just living life.”
He says lessons he absorbed at Shepherd Center still motivate him.
“They gave me the attitude that you have responsibilities and have to keep moving,” he says. “They’d come in and get you up to do therapy every day, go on outings. Sometimes, it wastough. But they didn’t give you the opportunity to cop out. They expected you to make the most of your time there.
“I’ve kept that attitude. I don’t want to waste time. I want to make the most of it.”
Written by Drew Jubera
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 neuromuscular 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 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.