Beyond Therapy Program Helps Spinal Cord Injury Survivor Push Limits of Recovery

More than two and a half years after Tom Sloope was paralyzed in a fall, he's back in Atlanta, working out at Shepherd Center.

"It's like coming to a fitness center," Sloope says.

But, this is not a gym. And it's not exactly a traditional rehab program. Beyond Therapy the next step, pushing spinal cord injury survivors to the limits of their recovery.

"So, you come up here and get expert therapy, specifically for your level of injury," Sloope says, "And it's made a huge difference."

In March of 2013, Sloope , a Forsyth, Georgia husband, father and civil engineer fell off a ladder on his pickup truck while trying to cut off a tree branch, suffering a spinal cord injury. The former marathoner spent the better part of the next year at Shepherd Center, first in the ICU, then then as an inpatient, then in the day program.

Now, two and a half years later, Beyond Therapy is helping Sloope loosen up tightness, gain strength, even slim down.

"When I got in here, I weighed a little bit more," Sloope says, "So it's actually helped me keep my weight down. Which is a hard, a real hard thing to do when you're in a wheelchair all day."

Rebecca Washburn, Wellness Manager at Shepherd Center, says Beyond Therapy is at least 50 times more intense that traditional outpatient therapy. In the last decade years, about 400 patients have come through the program, training, she says, like elite athletes, and making progress.

"We've seen that time and time again, regardless of injury, regardless of where they are in that recovery," Washburn says, "we see that every single time."

But cost is a major challenge.

"It's self-pay, and it's not covered by insurance." Washburn says, "So, that's one huge, financial issue."

Tom Sloope plans to stick with the program for a year, at a cost of just over $31,000. Shepherd Center says that averages out to about $600 a week. Sloope sees it as an investment in himself.

"Oh, it means everything," he says, "I'll continue to come as long as I can."

Because Sloope is determined.

"The odds are not favorable that I'll ever walk again. But, I'll walk again," he says.

And Beyond Therapy gives him hope.

"No false hope, and no promises," Sloope says. "But they'll get you to be the best you can be."