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Physician Assistant Returns to Work After Rehabilitation for Spinal Cord Injury

John Trimbath of Ohio returns to practice medicine at a mental health clinic.

As a U.S. Air Force veteran and a physician assistant for 35 years, John Trimbath, 65, of Cleveland, Ohio, had a good understanding of his medical condition following a C-4 spinal cord injury he sustained in a 2009 accident. What John didn’t have, he says now, was a grasp of the social and mental issues that often accompany catastrophic injuries.

“Getting myself in the right head space was one thing,” he says. “But as a quadriplegic, at times, it feels like people don’t understand us. They can be overly sympathetic, or try too much to help. Or just think of you differently. I had a really hard time with that early in my recovery.”

John says that beyond his physical rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, he’s appreciative of how staff members prepared him for the real world. “I tell everybody that the Cleveland hospitals put me back together after my injury, but that Shepherd Center really saved my life,” John says.

And that life is full. In the past year, John has watched both of his children get married, and he is now a grandfather. Thanks to support from his family, his caregiver Karlissa Peterson and from friends in the profession, John has also returned to his professional passion.

On July 14, 2015, John resumed part-time work as a physician assistant, at a community mental health clinic. Then, four days later, he and Diane hosted 200 guests at their home for the wedding of their son, Ryan.

“We’ve had a little going on,” he deadpans.

That’s not all. In 2012-2013, John served as president of the Ohio Association of Physician Assistants. Currently, he’s a committee chair for the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and assists as a consultant for legislative affairs in Ohio. John also teaches at a local college and speaks to professional organizations.

In 2013, the American Academy of Physician Assistants presented him with its President’s Award in honor of his commitment to advocacy, education and professional development.

“I enjoy doing this type of work,” John says. “I see it as my responsibility as someone with experience in the profession. It’s very rewarding for me.”

Written by Phillip Jordan

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.