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Musician Continues to Write his Redemption Song

David Platillero of Knoxville, Tennessee, returns to the stage after rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury.

On April 27, 2016, 24-year-old music student David Francisco Platillero was riding his bicycle in Nashville, Tennessee, when a motorist ran a red light and hit him. His L-1 fracture was initially thought to be a complete spinal cord injury.

“I thought I would be in a wheelchair forever,” David says.

But one year and eight days after his accident – and following eight months of rehabilitation in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program and Beyond Therapy® at Shepherd Center, David was introduced on stage by country music star Martina McBride at a concert in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Showing the poise and stage presence of a seasoned professional, David walked across the stage using forearm crutches, sat on a stool, picked up his guitar and joked with the audience for giving him a standing ovation.

“You don’t even know if I’m any good yet,” he said.

Then he and Martina sang “Just Around the Corner,” a song that includes these lyrics:

"You find a little grace
When you lose your faith
And you set your sights once more
On a slow-down, deep breath,
And the strength to take another step.
And keep walking, baby,
Keep on walking."

That David was walking and had just met Martina earlier that day were just two of the remarkable developments that have taken place since David’s injury.

They began with the accident itself, when an alert medical student, who was delivering sandwiches nearby, stopped at David’s accident site, put a tourniquet on his bleeding arm and stabilized his head.

Then, a police officer noticed David’s name tag and called the Blackbird Academy where David was studying music recording and production. Martina McBride and her husband, John, own the academy, and John is the director. Although he scarcely knew David, John went to the hospital and stayed with him until the arrival of David's parents, who were making a three-hour drive from Knoxville.

A few weeks later, the Academy held a benefit for David and raised $30,000. The hosts of Pensado’s Place, a weekly TV series about audio engineering, not only mentioned David, but also invited him to their awards show in August 2016 in Los Angeles and presented him with a check for $10,000. MusiCares, the charity arm of The Recording Academy – the presenters of the Grammy Awards – announced it would pay his rent.

David and his family found that same uplifting spirit at Shepherd Center.

“Everything was so welcoming,” says his father, John. “There were a lot of people in wheelchairs and forearm crutches, and everyone was smiling. I thought ‘This is where we need to be.’ The occupational therapist, Patti, was so direct, matter of fact and kind at the same time. She talked to him like a big sister. She said, ‘It’s time for you to take this on.’”

To this day, Patti and David are in touch.

“It was inspirational. No pity, no ‘Poor you,’” John recalls. “She said, ‘I’m going to teach you how to get out of bed.’”

“The minute I got there, everything was better,” David says. “The nurses were incredible. They really cared. And the therapists were unforgettable across the board. I remember thinking ‘They’re incredible!’”

David spent two months in Shepherd Center’s inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program before transitioning to Beyond Therapy®, Shepherd Center’s rigorous, activity-based program designed to help people with a variety of neurological disorders improve lifelong health, minimize secondary complications and get the most from any new neural links to their muscles.

“They taught me I can’t use the word ‘can’t.’” David says. “Even if something seems impossible, it’s not impossible.”

David's injury was classified as an incomplete one after he underwent surgery, and he approached rehabilitation with a “push the boundaries” attitude.

“He was in a lot of pain one day,” John says, “and he said to me, ‘I can always find something to complain about, but I can also always find something to be grateful for.’”

Five months into his rehabilitation, David began using a rolling walker. In December, he switched to crutches.

“I’m still getting stronger,” David says. “I keep going to the gym and working out, and now I can walk around the house without assistance. I’m going to keep going until I do a marathon. I say that and laugh. It’s ridiculous, but I may as well try.”

Although he has an electrical engineering degree, his passion is music. After performing and recording other musicians for two years, he enrolled at Blackbird three weeks before the accident because he saw potential for a career in recording and producing. After meeting singer Jason Mraz and other musicians in Los Angeles last summer, David revived his dreams of performing. A month after singing with McBride, he performed a concert of his own called “Celebrate Overcoming” in Knoxville that included a video about his accident and rehabilitation.

“It’s all about redemption,” he says. “My goal is to share my story. It’s really rewarding to inspire people to do more than they thought they could.”

“David learned that at Shepherd Center,” John says. “He calls it his place of healing.”

More information on Spinal Cord Rehabilitation at Shepherd Center here.

Visit David's website here.

Written by John Christensen
Photos and Video Courtesy of David Platillero

David Platillero Walks at Grad Ceremonyopens in new window
Former Shepherd Center spinal cord injury patient David Platillero walks across the stage to accept his diploma at graduation from music academy.

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.