colton on a hand-cycle riding in downtown Chicago with is young son

Patient Story

Young Father Sets Sights on Recovery Following Tractor-Trailer Accident

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On November 22, 2017, Colton, a farmer and young father, was driving his family’s tractor-trailer for the last run of the day in Newton County, Ind., when it collided with another 18-wheeler.

“I’d never seen a semi wreck as bad as the pictures I’d seen taken of mine. The cab was completely ripped from the frame and thrown a good 200 feet, and then tossed me out,” said Colton.

Colton’s vertebrae was broken at the T12 level, and many of his ribs sustained breaks. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

I’d never seen a semi wreck as bad as the pictures I’d seen taken of mine...



Right away, his wife began researching the best rehabilitation facilities in the country and saw that the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report. The young family made the decision to travel to Chicago for Colton’s care.

When Colton arrived at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, doctors told him that he had an incomplete injury — meaning that his spinal cord was compressed or injured in his accident, but that the injury did not eliminate the brain’s ability to send signals below the point of injury. With intensive therapy, he started to regain some sensation down his left leg.


To complement his therapy, Colton enrolled in one of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s exoskeleton studies. Exoskeletons are wearable robotics that facilitate movement. 

“The exo[skeleton] program was probably one of the best things I did here,” he said. “I felt I gained the most strength in my legs.”

After completing his inpatient stay, Colton moved on to the hospital’s DayRehab Center Streeterville, where he continued building his strength and meeting new milestones for two more months.

Today, Colton is motivated to stay healthy for his wife and little boy, and leads an active, independent life. Hehopes to return to farming.

“If I’m in the best shape I can be, and if there ever is a breakthrough, I’ll be ready,” said Colton.  

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