Skating to Success
January 18, 2019
A Franklin Lakes youth who lost a leg in a boating accident wins gold as a Paralympic athlete.
Jack Wallace, 20, still gets goose bumps thinking about helping the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team win its third consecutive gold medal at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. “It was flat-out the best moment of my life,” he says. It was also the culmination of years of hard work. Jack began playing hockey when he was just 3 years old. But his life changed in 2008 when, at age 10, he had to have his right leg amputated above the knee after a boating accident.
Jack’s parents, John and Barbara, had a difficult time finding a rehabilitation team to work with Jack. Many in the area didn’t serve children or couldn’t provide the level of care Jack needed. Then one of Jack’s doctors recommended the family meet Heikki Uustal, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and medical director of Prosthetics and Orthotics at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. Soon Dr. Uustal was managing Jack’s care.
“People who have undergone amputation need highly specialized and comprehensive care,” Dr. Uustal says. “We offer the full range of specialized services. Following thorough evaluation by an expert team that includes a physiatrist, prosthetist and physical therapist, we manage the prosthetic fitting, wound healing, pain control, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling and family support.
“We keep up with the latest advances in prosthetics, and we help our patients reintegrate into their communities. And because our patients’ needs will change over time, we’re there for them for life.”
Jack started physical therapy with Sue Callaghan, PT, at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute two months after his accident.
Callaghan found creative ways to challenge Jack and focus his abundant energy. Knowing that Jack wanted to get back to hockey, Callaghan brought in her Nintendo Wii system so he could work on his rehabilitation while playing a virtual version of the game. “We wanted to get Jack back to doing everything he wanted to do.”
Back In The Game
A year after his accident, Jack learned about sled hockey. Jack joined a local team and rose through the ranks, ultimately earning a spot on the 2018 U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team. Jack is now a junior studying biomedical engineering at the College of New Jersey, hoping to one day be involved in designing prosthetic devices.
Recently, he participated in the 19th JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute/EAGA Howard Taylor Memorial Golf Classic, where he enjoyed a reunion with Dr. Uustal and Sue Callaghan, and ended up helping his physical therapist with her golf game. “Jack’s come full circle,” Callaghan says. “He’s really giving back and helping so many others on this difficult road so they can also reach their full potential one day.”
25-year-old Man on the Road to Recovery After a Debilitative Brain Injury
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Breathing Again After Spinal Cord Injury
"[Phrenic Nerve Surgery] made such a difference in my well-being and mental and physical health," said 33-year-old William Marshall. "For someone with quadriplegia, that’s crucial. And with an injury like mine, you appreciate every win you can get.”
A Cardiac Care Army
“It was hard just to walk,” recalls Simon, an avid exerciser, adding that months of outpatient physical therapy after discharge helped him regain his strength until he could head back to his beloved gym.