Zech Carson was searching YouTube for the phrase “cure for paralysis,” when he came across the video testimonial that changed his life. The patient in the video he watched had participated in a study by a group called Unique Access Medical and had regained movement in his legs. For 24 years, Carson has been partially paralyzed following a spinal cord injury he sustained playing football for Island Christian School.
Carson had read about numerous treatments, and the science behind what the study proposed seemed to make complete sense. Once he qualified and was accepted, the study would take him to the World Medical Center, an hour’s drive outside Bangkok, Thailand.
There, doctors placed a device known as an epidural stimulator into his body and attached 16 probes onto his central and lower vertebrae. He was also given 160 million stem cells. In the days that followed, Carson helped doctors “map” his nerves and learned how to use the stimulator to control the muscles responsible for leg movement. Four days in, there was no improvement. Maybe too much time had passed, thought Carson. Then, on day six, he wiggled his foot, and everything changed.
What have been the results of your treatment? After 24 years on having no movement in my legs, I am able with help from the epidural stimulator to move both of my ankles up, kick my legs out, pull my legs up, and push my legs down. I can do 10-30 of these movements before the muscle starts to fatigue.
That’s really encouraging. What does the future hold? Hopefully, with hard work, walking in my future!
Who’s on your team of medical professionals? My therapist Kit from Unique Access in Thailand and their team there. Dr. Joanne Mahoney has been my doctor for 24 years taking great care of me. Alain from Ergo Medics does all my seating for my wheelchair (he is the best); it’s very important being a spinal cord injury. In Motion Mobility for my van and independence to drive my own vehicle. I’m very blessed to have access to so many professionals that make my life so much easier.
What’s your workout regime like? I use the stimulator to kick my trunk and ab muscles on to work and do an upper body workout first thing in the morning with a weight machine. In the evening, I run through a series of leg exercises using the programs in my stimulator to get my legs to move until the muscle is too worn out to do the movement any more.
Your girlfriend, Kristin, has been by your side through these exciting times. What can you say about her support? Kristin is the best and I could not do any of this, or anything really, without her.
What role do you see for yourself in helping others dealing with injuries? I’ve learned a whole lot over these 24 years, some stuff the hard way from not knowing what a spinal cord injury is all about. So I’ve lived it, learned a lot, and would enjoy helping people and families dealing with this injury to make their lives a little easier by sharing my experience.
You’ve considered writing a book about your experiences. What would you call it? “The Journey.”
Who’s been an impactful mentor in your life? My family with their love and support, and Pastor Tony Hammon.
Your trip to Thailand was eye-opening for many reasons. What was the biggest difference from the States? The accessibility here in the USA is such a gift. There is no ADA over there, and no one fighting to make things available for people with disabilities.
Having grown up around mechanics, you’re a full-fledged gearhead. Chevy or Ford? I’m a Ford guy, so any Classic 1965-1993 Mustang is my dream car.
If you had hit the $560 million Powerball what would you do with the money? I would spend some of it on physical therapy, or anything to better my health that would continue my progress to get me up and walking. I would also give my family and friends money so we would not need to work and could all enjoy life and have fun together any day of the week.
You dig classic movies. All-time Top 5? Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Jerry Maguire, Green Mile, Batman The Dark Knight, and White Men Can’t Jump.
Which historical figure would you like to sit and share a meal with? Donald Trump.
You’re a big Miami sports fan. Who wins a championship first: Marlins, Dolphins, or Heat? The Miami Heat.
You are on the board for the Center for Independent Living and the Autism Society of the Florida Keys. What’s the best way to get involved with these organizations? Read about these organizations, becoming knowledgeable about what we do and getting people and families in our community plugged into them so we can get them the help they need.