BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - “He doesn’t have the available range of motion in his ankles,” Courtney Boyle explained as she strained to rotate her patient’s foot.
The neurological clinical specialist has been rubbing and pulling on Devin Puckett for more than a year, hoping to kindle a fire in his lifeless legs.
Puckett had very little feeling in his legs or feet when he began seeing therapists at Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital. The four-inch scar on his back tells only part of the story.
Puckett was accidentally shot in the back by one of his closest friends. The bullet severed part of his spinal cord, and pierced his kidney. Doctors saved his kidney, but they told Puckett the injury to his spine was permanent.
“I thought everything was over.” Puckett said. “They told me I wasn’t going to walk again. They actually told me I wasn’t going to be able to move my feet.”
“He couldn’t even sit up when he came in.” said Boyle. “He could only wiggle one toe, and it was barely a wiggle. It was like a flicker.”
But even a flicker can spark hope.
It took months of psychological and physical therapy, dealing with the emotions of losing his legs and coaxing dead nerve endings back to life. Eventually, Puckett took his first baby step.
Boyle still gets a little teary when she thinks of that day. “When he took that first step, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh! The opportunities we have now.’”
“I felt like I was a new-born baby.” said Puckett. “I really had to work hard to get my legs stronger.”
Braces stiffen Puckett's ankles as his feet shuffle across the hospital floor. He use a walker for support and balance.
“I really want to be back to 100%.” Puckett said.
"I don't know what the future holds for him," Boyle said as she watched Puckett maneuver the hallways, "but I think it's going to be great."
When times are the darkest, we're told to look to the light. On Puckett's weekly trips through the halls, he is escorted by an entourage of order-barking, encouragement-shouting therapists who helped him see the light.
More than a year after that first visit, discharge is right around the corner. And Puckett and Boyle are looking forward to a day when he may take another first step. This one, without his walker.
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