Phil's Story of Recovery

Patient Story

Hoops and Hope Following a Freak Accident


Phil is a tall, athletic, self-proclaimed goofy 30-year-old from Chicago’s South Side. His smile lights up a room, and his enthusiasm for life is contagious. He loves his mother, family, friends and … basketball. He credits the sport with teaching him important skills and changing the trajectory of his life.

Phil was just a week away from traveling internationally to play basketball — an incredible dream come true — when a freak incident forced his life to take a dramatic turn.


One night, a neighbor’s dog charged and bit him in the leg. Phil tried to shake off the dog, but he fell backward, hitting his head. He sought treatment and seemed fine otherwise. A few days later, however, he was unable to move his legs and returned to the local hospital.

Phil’s diagnosis was ambiguous, thereby making it more challenging for his care team. He was a basketball standout who’d suddenly lost feeling in his legs.

After a few weeks of feeling down and out without a clear road to recovery, the strength and support of his mom lifted his spirits and together they decided to come to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab — reigniting his hope and athlete’s drive.

Our neuromuscular physicians diagnosed and treated Phil for a brain and spinal cord injury. That discovery meant a whole new ball game. Phil’s clinical team presented a game plan for recovery — we motivated him, pushed him, reciprocated his fun spirit of goofiness and showed him every day how much we cared.

Phil told us that, for the first time in his life, he felt love and support from strangers. He felt embraced immediately.

Good friendships, genuine love. I could be myself because people don’t judge you here



Phil continued making tremendous progress and has since returned home. Now he’s walking, driving and is slowly making his way back onto the basketball court. Equally important, Phil has a new appreciation for the smaller things in life — like walking his dog, spending time with family and friends and just having fun.

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The inpatient care teams at AbilityLab help patients reach their goals and return to home, work, or school with a combination of therapy, science and technology. See what makes our integrated, translational care model different. 

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