One of the most inspiring moments of the 2010 football season was Brock Mealer, brother of Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, leading the Wolverines onto the field of play to open up the season. It was inspiring because Mealer was walking on canes after doctors had told him he had a one percent chance to ever walk again following a horrible car wreck that killed the Mealers' father and Elliott's girlfriend and left Brock with severe spinal injuries.
But there Brock was, leading the way.
It has been a year-and-a-half since Brock Mealer's initial journey. He's still rehabbing with former Michigan strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis. Now Mealer is walking—walking without canes, or anything else, for over 20 steps at a time. And there is video (there might be some mild language at one point, but I'm not sure):
You really get a sense of what a deteriorating effect paralysis and inactivity can have when you see how thin Mealer's legs have become. They're obviously working to combat that, but that's such a tough task.
Also, while Mealer's progress is absolutely breathtaking and wonderful, one can also see what a deep gap there is "walking" and "enjoying a normal quality of life." Mealer's going to get better and better at being mobile, but he's a long way away from being able to, say, incorporate that walking into a usual day's work at an office.
That's not to throw cold water onto the progress Mealer has made, because walking with ease is a goal they should still have in mind, but it really illustrates just how far medicine has to go in fully healing spinal injuries. It will be a great day when a spinal cord injury is no more than a temporary nuisance on the road to full recover. And with any luck, Brock Mealer will be there again, leading the way.