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Neuroworx: Pushing For More

Author: South Valley Chamber
Published: February 6, 2018

You may notice a new building in the urban neighborhood along State Street in Sandy. What you don’t see from the outside are the inspiring people and stories inside. We had the chance to sit down with Dr. Dale Hull, Executive Director and Co-Founder, for an inspiring conversation to discuss the background of Neuroworx and learn more about their mission and work.

Neuroworx is a nonprofit, community-based, outpatient physical and occupational therapy clinic focusing on neurological rehabilitation for individuals experiencing paralysis from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, and other neurological conditions.

In 1999, Hull experienced his own life-altering spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. He underwent therapy from Jan Black, who is the Neuroworx Co-founder and Clinic Director, for two and a half years. With his dramatic improvements, including regaining the ability to walk, he realized how fortunate he was to have such an extraordinary clinician and together they realized there were other people who could benefit from this type of therapy.

“The watershed moment for me was when I came across the Gandhi quote, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world,’” Hull said. “The impact of the quote was ‘this is what you need to do.’”

It took several months to figure it out, but in 2004 Neuroworx opened in a relatively empty 1,000 square foot room with about dozen individuals receiving therapy from Jan. The clinic slowly grew by adding equipment, staff, and programs, expanding into 4,000 square feet and eventually raising enough support and money to build their state-of-art Sandy facility.  Currently, Neuroworx provides physical and occupational therapy to adults and children experiencing paralysis from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, cerebral palsy and similar neurological conditions. Although the majority of those treated are from the Wasatch Front and surrounding area, individuals from twenty-four states and four countries have made their way to Neuroworx.

Specializing in neurological rehabilitation with a focus on paralysis is unusual in the physical therapy world since it requires very intense, customized care. Neuroworx is even more unique because its treatment model provides extended treatment time beyond what is typically allowed by insurance. It is this extra time, combined with experienced therapists and specialized equipment that allows individuals to make greater progress.  Neuroworx must raise the money to make this supplemental care possible as well as to provide charity care for those with inadequate resources.

The organization’s motto is “Pushing for More”. Neuroworx tries to empower people who find their lives totally devastated by catastrophic circumstances. “People just want a chance to regain as much as possible,” said Hull.  “It would be difficult to find a more motivated group of people. To watch them work hard, to find themselves and go on to accomplish great things in the face of adversity is inspiring. It blesses me personally.”

“Walking is the holy grail in paralysis,” states Hull. Unfortunately, given the current constraints of science and medicine, not everyone will get there. However, improving someone’s outcome to the most optimal level gives them greater personal independence, better health, and an enhanced quality of life. “We feel if we make their spirits walk, we are still doing great work,” emphasized Hull, adding,  “Some of our favorite stories are people still in a chair, who go on to do incredible things. Meg Johnson is a great example.”

Meg was a talented dancer and in 2005 fell from a 30-foot cliff breaking her wrists, femur, and neck resulting in quadriplegic paralysis. She spent a year and a half receiving outpatient rehabilitation at Neuroworx.  Despite good progress, it was apparent she would require a wheelchair for the foreseeable future.

During her treatment time at Neuroworx, Meg discovered the Miss Wheelchair America pageant and decided she wanted to enter. After finding out she was ineligible because Utah didn’t have a wheelchair pageant and that she would need to be a state winner to compete, she took matters into her own hands.

“Most of us would just give up,” smiled Hull. “Not Meg. She found a used tiara on eBay, put it on her head, called the national pageant back announcing ‘Hi, I’m Ms. Wheelchair Utah’. She literally crowned herself.”

They not only allowed her to participate in the national pageant, but they also granted her the charter to start the real Ms. Wheelchair Utah event.

Because of Meg and her determination, the pageant is now in its tenth year. In addition to Miss Wheelchair Utah, she created the Princess Pageant which provides girls twelve and younger a full day of a tea party luncheon with princess attendants along with a pageant where friends and family cheer on the participants.

At one point in time, Ms. Wheelchair Utah, by the number of participants and the number of people coming to the pageant, was the largest one in the United States.

“She has changed so many women’s and little girl’s lives,” said Hull. “It’s a powerful example of the power of one. One person making a difference for so many.” Meg’s motto – “When Life Gets Too Hard To Stand, Just Keep On Rolling.”

There are many more inspiring stories of those who pass through Neuroworx on their remarkable journeys of recovery.  Each one individual, each one incredibly difficult.

Hull and Black are extremely grateful for the generosity of the community that helps them fulfill their mission. “We literally could not do it without this support. It is gratifying to know that people believe in what we’re doing. Every donation is a compliment.”

“Yes, we’re a physical and occupational therapy facility, but we’re more than just a clinic,” said Hull. “We’re a source of hope and a place of progress.”

If you are interested in getting involved with Neuroworx or would like a tour of the facility, please contact Dale Hull at dale@neuroworx.org. As a facility, they offer team-building opportunities for companies, sports teams, and different groups to play wheelchair basketball in their facility. There are also volunteer opportunities available.