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Patients and Families Give Back to Shepherd Center

A former patient and a former patient’s family use their unique talents to give back to Shepherd Center.


In 2014, David Francisco Platillero, 28, had a big decision to make. Having graduated recently from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, he could either pursue that career path or follow his passion for music. After much contemplation, he chose music and never looked back.

Fast forward to today, and David is an accomplished singer/songwriter, producer, author and speaker. He has one more title that he never expected – spinal cord injury (SCI) survivor.

On April 27, 2016, David was riding his bicycle in Nashville, Tennessee, when a motorist ran a red light and hit him. He sustained an incomplete L-1 spinal cord injury and spent two months in Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program. Then, he transitioned to Beyond Therapy®, Shepherd Center’s activity-based therapy program designed to help people with various neuromuscular disorders improve their lifelong health, minimize secondary complications and get the most out of any new neural links to their muscles. Since then, he has continued to create and perform music, as well as use his platform to give back to others who have sustained traumatic injuries.

“Giving back helps me find purpose in my suffering,” David says. “In some ways, it’s mutually beneficial. I want to use my insight from the SCI to encourage others, and doing that helps me feel empowered, as well.”

That spirit of giving back to others translated into a creative idea during the COVID-19 pandemic. David’s dad, John, who also acts as David’s music manager, had an epiphany one day.

“My dad has a way of dreaming things up and somehow making them happen,” David says. “Since most things have been virtual, he thought it would be a great idea for me to do an online series with Shepherd Center where I interviewed other patients about how they found purpose in their suffering from traumatic injuries. I was excited for the opportunity to give back to Shepherd Center: It was my place of healing.”

After collaborating with Shepherd Center, David and John decided to name the virtual series “Lionheart-to-Heart,” inspired by David’s book and album titled “Lionheart.” From personal experience, David knows how important it is to have a support system during rehabilitation and wants to use this series as an avenue to provide support to others. 

“I know when I was going through my difficult season, I needed people to give back, and they did,” David says. “I want viewers to be encouraged by this show. You will hear from people who have gone through serious challenges and have chosen to respond in amazing ways.”

David’s first interview was with Levi Smith, 14, of Myrtle, Mississippi. Levi sustained a traumatic brain injury in a four-wheeling accident. In the first episode, Levi and his mom, Jessica Coggin, talk about his courageous battle and progress to this point.

“Every time I talk to someone who has gone through a traumatic injury, it brings me back to being in the hospital and wondering what my life would look like once I was out,” David says. “It was so humbling to get to speak to Levi. His positive attitude really inspired me.”

To view the series and see the latest episode of Lionheart-toHeart, visit


Swimming has always been part of Cooper Sever’s family. Cooper, 16, of Salisbury, North Carolina, has been a swimmer since he was six years old. His father, Michael, coaches the youth swim team Cooper is part of, Tidal Wave Aquatics, and the swim team at Catawba College.

Earlier this summer, Cooper decided to use his talent to raise money for a cause that has become near and dear to his heart – patients and families at Shepherd Center.

On July 22, 2019, Cooper’s uncle, North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper Chris Wooten, sustained a complete C-1 spinal cord injury when he was hit by a truck while on his motorcycle during a chase in Charlotte. He stayed at Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program for more than six months. Chris’ family struggled with how they could help as Chris went through rehabilitation.

“It’s hard to find a way to communicate about the experience unless somebody’s been through it,” Michael says. “What our family and many other families have experienced is just how life-impacting these incidents can be. It meant the world to Chris, his wife, Sharon, and us to have Shepherd Center.”

Because of their experience at Shepherd, Cooper set a goal to raise as much money as possible for Shepherd Center patients and families by swimming 30 miles in 24 hours. That is equivalent to swimming 1.25 miles, or 80 laps, each hour. The swim began on July 21 and ended on July 22, the anniversary of his uncle’s crash.

“My uncle Chris was my inspiration,” Cooper says. “I wanted to do something big to honor him and everything he has been through.”

Cooper began a rigorous training schedule to prepare for the swim.

“Weeks prior, my dad and I would come to the pool twice each day,” Cooper says. “I would swim for four to five hours in the morning and then again at night.”

All that hard work paid off. Cooper successfully swam for 24 hours, only taking 15-minute breaks each hour for a quick meal, ice bath or power nap. But for Cooper, the toughest part wasn’t the physical exertion, but rather the mental challenge. He thought of his uncle Chris to get him through.

“The hardest thing was the mental part,” Cooper says. “But then I remembered everything Chris went through. Everything I was going through was nothing in comparison.”

Through his generosity and determination, Cooper raised about $15,000 for patients and families at Shepherd Center. The money went to the hospital’s Patient Assistance Fund (PAF), a program that helps cover basic needs that insurance will not pay for and/or that the patient cannot afford, especially at the time of discharge. These needs can include medication, home healthcare, home modifications and additional therapy – anything that could be a barrier to both care at the hospital and a smooth transition back home.

“The cost of medical goods and recovery for people who have been through an injury like Chris’ are immense,” Michael says. “That’s why it was so important that the money went to the PAF.”

Cooper hopes his experience inspires others to give back in any way they can.

“I wanted people to see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” Cooper says. “I chose to swim because I wanted to use my talents to help others. I hope my effort helps people realize that anybody can do their part and help those in need.”


Written by Damjana Alverson

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.