Matthew's Story

Spinal cord injury patient success story

 Trucking business owner Matthew Parrott, 47, is a hard worker and a family man. Father to two daughters and one son and a grandfather to four, Matthew loves his life on the farm and enjoys canning vegetables and hunting in his spare time.

On a day late in June, Matthew, his son and grandson were in his truck heading to get haircuts when tragedy struck. A distracted driver pulled off the road and attempted to make a U-turn, which ended with the driver colliding into Matthew’s truck, causing it to roll over. When emergency personnel arrived at the scene of accident, all Matthew can remember is his son waking him up and the EMS crew cutting him out of the truck. It was then that Matthew realized he had severe back pain with decreased sensation to his lower limbs and weakness of his upper and lower limbs. Matthew was transported via helicopter to University of Florida Shands Hospital.

Upon closer examination at the hospital, it was determined that Matthew, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, had numerous injuries to his spinal cord. He first underwent spinal fusion surgery on his lower back, with another fusion of his neck/upper back a few days later. Matthew’s situation became more complicated when he had to have a nephrostomy tube (a catheter inserted through the skin and into the kidney to drain urine from the body) placed. Matthew also required antibiotic treatment after complications from an E. coli infection put him into septic shock.

After nearly a month in the hospital, Matthew arrived at UF Health Rehab Hospital to begin his extended recovery and rehabilitation. Diagnosed with incomplete quadriplegia due to his spinal cord injuries, Matthew required total assistance for self-care and mobility. His goals were to walk again, using a walker if necessary, and “to be his best self.” Matthew met with his physician-led care team for an evaluation and review of his goals to create a custom recovery plan.

Day after day, with the guidance of his physical, occupational and speech therapists, Matthew made progress toward his goal. Some of his key milestones at UF Health Rehab Hospital were the days when he took his first steps with a walker, the day he picked up his drink on his own and the day he was able to feed himself.

“There were little moments every day,” Matthew said. “Something changes every day. Some days are horrible, but you have to get up and make those moments happen,” he added. On his hard days, Matthew would listen to a song that a friend sent him called “God’s Not Through With You Yet” by The Detty Sisters. The song’s lyrics motivated Matthew to keep going, as did the photos of his family that he kept in his room.

While COVID-19 visitation restrictions made it difficult for Matthew to see his family, they called him each day and his grandchildren would drop off stuffed animals for him and do “window visits” with him regularly. Two of Matthew’s children also underwent hands-on training at the hospital to help learn how to safely get him into the car, assist him with walking and help prevent falls in preparation for Matthew going home.

During his time at UF Health Rehab Hospital, Matthew was able to get to know another patient with a similar diagnosis who was unmotivated and struggling. He gave this fellow patient encouragement to continue with his therapy, reminding him that “you get stronger each day.”

Matthew looks forward to coming back to the hospital to be a part of their peer mentor program so he can continue to motivate and encourage others who are just beginning their journey of recovery.

After 36 days of inpatient rehabilitation, Matthew was able to walk independently with a walker and conduct his personal care with minimal assistance. He plans to continue his recovery by going to outpatient rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of getting back to work.

Matthew said that his experience at UF Health Rehab Hospital was “wonderful,” and that he “couldn’t have wished for a better place to have recovered.”