Virginia Man Finds New Ways to Stay Active After Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Logan Smith learns rules of the game and "everyday life stuff" from his teammates.
Logan Smith, 20, of Dublin, Virginia, was a patient at Shepherd Center in 2016. When he returned to Shepherd Center in November 2018, it was for a wheelchair rugby tournament. Playing for the Carolina Crash, Logan reunited with Sarah Leonard, PT, DPT, the physical therapist who got him interested in rugby when he was in rehabilitation after sustaining a spinal cord injury – and who coaches the Shepherd Smash, one of the 11 sports teams in the Fred, Shaler and Andrew Alias Sports Teams program at Shepherd Center.
He says Leonard told him what to expect when he played the Smash, whose players he practiced with while learning the game.
“You know when our teams play they’re going to give you a really hard time,” Leonard told him good naturedly. “But it’s just because they love you.”
In October 2016, Logan was driving home from a local junior college when his truck hydroplaned and flipped down a 30-foot embankment. The result: a complete C-6 and C-7 spinal cord injury. He transferred to Shepherd Center after 10 days at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia. Logan joined the Adolescent Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program, where he bonded with other young adult patients.
“It was nice to relate to somebody my age in the exact same situation,” he says. “It helps keep you motivated.”
Logan started playing wheelchair rugby while he was in the Spinal Cord Injury Day Program at Shepherd Center. He’d played high school football, and rugby was “the most contact sport out of all the wheelchair sports.” He also learned “everyday living stuff” from the older players.
“They push you to do more,” he says. “They try to get you to the next step of whatever you’re doing.”
Logan has stayed active since leaving Shepherd Center’s day program in March 2017. Besides playing rugby for the Charlotte-based Crash, he’s gone on a Shepherd-sponsored ski trip and cycled for a 180-mile fundraiser. He has kayaked, ridden a personal watercraft and scuba dived at Shepherd Center’s Adventure Skills Workshop, which is held every spring. He also provides peer support in Charlotte for patients with spinal cord injuries.
Logan graduates this spring from New River Community College, with plans to enroll at Virginia Tech.
He stays in touch with former patients, as well as therapists, whom he saw at the tournament.
“Honestly, they’re just family now,” he says.
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 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.