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Volunteer Profile – Duane Morrow

With a successful career, a happy marriage and five children by age 36, Duane Morrow had a wonderful life. Working in London in 2004, Duane took up rugby, which he played with relatively minor incident until an injury that Duane initially shrugged off.

He does not recall anything unusual happening during the game, but the next day, however, he experienced swelling in his spine, and he felt his body shut down. In short, during this seemingly uneventful rugby game, Duane had critically ruptured a disk at the base of his neck and subsequently developed quadriplegia.

After undergoing surgery in London, Duane was taken to Shepherd Center via jet ambulance for rehabilitation. As much as the therapists pushed Duane, he pushed his therapists to push him to do more – to practice getting in and out of his wheelchair again, to practice getting dressed again, to do whatever he needed to do to gain more movement again.

“I worked hard to become as independent as possible,” Duane says. “Today, I am a ‘walking quadriplegic’, meaning I can walk using either a cane or FES Bioness leg brace. I credit my cool God, my hard work, my positive attitude, my family and my incredible therapists at Shepherd Center for helping me achieve all of the movement I have today.”

Now that Duane has found what he calls his “new normal,” he gives back to Shepherd Center in any way he can. For example, since 2008, he has volunteered at Shepherd’s annual Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW), a camp-like weekend held at Lake Martin in Jackson’s Gap, Ala., for people with a spinal cord injury or other disabilities. At the camp, Duane generously donates his all-terrain vehicles, mans the water skiing station and, most importantly, offers camp participants invaluable encouragement as they engage in different activities.

Duane also serves on the Center’s Foundation board, through which he and his fellow board members have helped raise $6 million this year for hospital renovations. Duane attributes his success in fundraising to his serving as living proof of the value Shepherd Center provides.

Of all his volunteer activities at Shepherd, Duane says his favorite one is helping other patients. “In my corporate job, I help people succeed,” he says. “But helping people at Shepherd has become a whole other calling where I get to show them that you do not have to be a victim. Life in a wheelchair can be pretty cool.”

Duane also volunteers at the Peachtree Road Race as a broadcaster for 11Alive TV. In this role, he provides commentary on the race as an expert from the Wheelchair Division.

Between his volunteer activities, his still successful career and happy family, and his participation in various sports, Duane has certainly not slowed down.

“Duane is one of a kind,” says Kelly Edens, therapeutic recreation manager at Shepherd Center. “He is always helping other patients and showing them firsthand that they can still live life to the fullest.”

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.