In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

May 6, 2014

Chris Norton’s upward mobility

By Elizabeth Harty

LutherChris760One thing was clear in the days after Chris Norton was injured during a football game in 2010, fracturing his neck and compressing his spinal cord: he was one determined young man. Immediately after his injury, Norton was flown to Mayo Clinic, where traction, surgery and some serious rehabilitation time helped him overcome the odds. Despite initial concerns that he might never regain the use of his arms and legs, he wiggled his toes a short time after the incident. A few months later, after weeks of intensive therapy, he had regained partial mobility in all four limbs. One year later, Chris Norton stood on the football field with the help of his teammates as honorary captain of his Luther football team.

Today, Chris is continuing his studies at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and he says he’s determined to walk on stage to receive his diploma next spring, according to a Des Moines Register story published last week. He’s also become an advocate for others with spinal cord injuries, starting a foundation with a mission to "promote the long-term health, wellness, recovery, and quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders.” His SCI-CAN Foundation has awarded more than $167,000 to help purchase rehab equipment in areas where it's needed most -- to help people like him, who are driven to improve their function, but who haven’t had access to the kinds of tools he’s had. Last year, after his foundation donated a specialized rehabilitation bicycle to Winneshiek Medical Center, Chris told the Des Moines Register that his goal is to help “people who want to get better and have the drive, they just don’t have the opportunity.”

Chris has also mixed inspiration with his perspiration, sharing his story through public speaking of the motivational type. His message for students is that “life is about your responses, not your circumstances.” And, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” (We’re sold.)

NortonChris300Norton has been in the news a lot this month, as May is National Mobility Awareness month. So he’s been sharing his story and his words of encouragement. He’s also been all over social media, thanks in part to this video produced by his girlfriend, Emily Summers, who says what amazes her most about Chris is “what he does for others.” That’s clear in a brief testimonial from the mother of a young girl using equipment Chris’ foundation donated, who tearfully says, “In our own way, we love him for what he’s done for all of us here.” Emily notes that Chris could do even more to help others if he could drive, something he hopes to be able to do one day -- and maybe sooner rather than later, if he wins a contest put on by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, which is giving away four vehicles customized for people with disabilities. (The contest continues through May 9.)

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Tags: Chris Norton, Patient Stories

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