Polo Horses

Patient Story

Adjusting to Life After being Paralyzed in Polo Accident

Posted By Meg Washburn

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Chicago Tribune Give Now

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Tony Sekera immediately knew his injuries were severe after the polo horse he was riding stumbled and threw him off.

"I knew right away I was hurt bad, I somersaulted off my horse," said Sekera, 69, a longtime Hinsdale resident who started playing polo in 1986.

"I knew it was bad because he wasn't moving," said Sekera's son, Matt, 43, who was present but didn't actually see his father fall to the ground.

Sekera was paralyzed from the chest down in the accident. He is able to turn his head, has limited movement in his right hand and even less in his left hand.

"There was no brain damage," Sekera's wife, Cindy Engdahl said. "He can talk, and he can eat and breathe on his own, which is very important."

The accident occurred June 2 in South Carolina, where Matt lives, and Sekera was airlifted to the Augusta University Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. He broke his C4 and C5 vertebrae and underwent surgery during which two rods were placed in his back.

Sekera spent seven weeks at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, formally known as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and was moved at the end of July to ManorCare Health Services-Hinsdale.

"He's getting therapy to increase his strength," Engdahl said. "We still don't know how much recovery he can make, but he'll continue to work on using more adaptive devices and being more independent."

To say that Sekera has had a major life change at age 69 would be a major understatement. But his attitude remains positive.

"It's hard work, but I have to keep going," he said. "It would be different if this happened in a car accident, if someone hit me. But this happened doing something I love. I can't have regrets."

Matt Sekera said he, too, would remain positive.

"It's not an option to not be. It's just one day at a time now because it's all so new," he said.

To read the rest of Tony's story, visit the Chicago Tribune. 

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