July 18, 2012 Edition

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Youth aims to
regain mobility

John Bland
Publisher

Dennis Flowers, a 17-year-old Walnut Ridge High School student, is facing challenges that people much older than him haven't had to endure.

An accident two months ago left him with paralysis, a condition he is now working hard to overcome.

On Saturday, between sessions of physical therapy, Dennis rested in his room (218) at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Jonesboro. He and his parents recalled his accident, hospitalization and efforts to recover.

On May 17, Dennis and some friends had gone for a swim in Black River, near Alicia.

"I guess I got a little too excited," Dennis said. He recalled that he failed to jump far enough out into the river and ended up hitting the riverbank.

He said he remained conscious but was unable to move. His friends, after seeing he was in trouble, got him out of the river. He was taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and then airlifted by helicopter to The Med in Memphis.

It was determined that he had broken the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck. He would spend almost a month at The Med, a level-one trauma center. On June 14, he was discharged and transferred to HeathSouth.

He had pain from the injuries in the beginning, but now his pain is in the struggle to recover.

"It's hard on him," said his father, Dennis Sr.

For Dennis, the hardest part of the injury has been his total dependence on others. "I'm not independent any more," he said. "I have to have everyone else do it for me."

He is now starting to regain some use of his right arm and the right side of his body. His left side has been slower to respond.

One of his therapies is the use of HealthSouth's AutoAmbulator. "I think it's really going to be beneficial," said Dennis' dad. "It gets him in a walking position and helps his brain remember how to walk."

For Dennis Sr., it has been difficult to see his son go from athletic to immobile, but likewise, it has been encouraging to see his son make progress. "Seeing him come back has helped me keep going day to day," he said.

When Dennis Sr. sees people around town, many of them ask about his son. "Everybody loves Dennis," said his dad. "Everybody asks me about him; even the police officers ask about him."

At first, it was upsetting to talk about his son, but now it's easy. "There is nothing but good news; he's progressing so well," Dennis Sr. said.

A job promotion took Dennis' mother to Texas, but she arrived May 20 to be with her son after the accident.

"Every day seeing him strive for his goals and getting better keeps me going," said Theresa Flowers. "It's really emotional for me, being a mom and watching my baby go through this." Dennis had planned to come to Texas to visit her this summer, she added.

Dennis' release date from HealthSouth is scheduled for Aug. 5. After going home, he will then continue therapy as an outpatient.

It is evident that Dennis has strong family support, which includes his sisters, Trana and Tiye. He also possesses the desire and determination to work hard. If those factors are the keys to his recovery, then the outlook for Dennis is good.

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