It was the last regular season game of the year for the Chicago Cougars amateur hockey team. And, it was off to a good start. "I actually scored the first goal of the game early in the first period on a power play," defenseman Matt Olson says. From there, however, the game took a life-changing turn for Matt. "Toward the end of the first period, their guy got a breakaway, and I was trying to chase him down," he says. That chase ended with Matt losing his balance and crashing "full speed" into the boards.
"I knew right away I couldn't move anything," Matt says. "Everything was numb." An ambulance rushed him to a local hospital, a frightening scene his parents watched unfold on live television from their home in Minnesota. "We saw it happen," Matt's dad, Doug Olson, says. "We knew it didn't look good."
When Matt's parents arrived at his bedside in Chicago, they learned that their son had suffered a C-4 level spinal cord injury that would leave him paralyzed from the neck down. The next day Matt had surgery to stabilize his neck muscles. Weeks of recovery and rehab in Chicago followed. Matt and his family then decided to return to Minnesota, where Matt continues his therapy and rehab at the Mayo Clinic Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program.
While Matt's days at Mayo have been long and his rehab work intense, his spinal cord specialist, Ronald Reeves, M.D., says each day is filled with progress and hope. "Matt is remarkable in his ability to cope with all of this," Dr. Reeves says. "He's very determined. He's doing a very good job making progress in his rehabilitation program. He's a very quick learner."
He's also becoming a pro with the specialized equipment that's helping him regain some of his strength and muscle tone. KARE 11-TV recently captured Matt riding an electrical stimulation bike as part of his rehab work. "It helps stimulate blood flow, helps provide a little stress for the heart, which helps with circulation, as well as some stress on the bones," Dr. Reeves says. "It helps with muscle tone, muscle bulk, circulation, and overall wellness. It also helps Matt potentially be able to do other things down the road."
Which is encouraging, especially since Matt's plans go beyond regaining physical strength. "I still want to go to college," he says. "That's one of my biggest goals for the future." That's an attitude and a goal that doesn't surprise his doctor one bit. "He's really adjusted remarkably well," Dr. Reeves says.
You can learn more about Matt's injury, rehab and recovery at Mayo Clinic here. Then, let us know what you think by sharing your comments below. Share this story with others using the handy social media tools.