Professional PT Patient’s Powerful Story of Recovery & Boston Marathon Finisher

Professional PT Patient’s Powerful Story of Recovery & Boston Marathon Finisher

Written by: Professional Physical Therapy

Tom Smith, a Professional PT patient is the first person in documented medical history to recover from 3 paralyzing accidents and go on to complete 3 Boston marathons – and training to complete his 4th one this month. Tom’s story represents monumental steps for the paralysis community and an inspiration for anyone that has faced dark circumstances – and to know anything is possible.

His story begins with dreams of becoming a professional hockey player at the age of 6. His aggressive style, passion, tenacity, and exceptional speed made him a phenom on the ice. He was cited by NHL scouts as one of the fasted skaters they ever saw. Tom was on his way to a college scholarship but sustained a spinal cord injury that many thought would end his promising career. But through an amazing rehabilitation and recovery program he was able to go back on the ice and back in competition – until incredibly it happened again. A second unrelated spinal cord injury, the odds were incalculable.

Tom spent over a month in the hospital after his second accident, before being released to an outpatient program. After showing some signs of movement in his legs and toes, he thought he could actually beat his injury for a second time. But the unthinkable happened. He was in a car with his dad on his way to therapy when another driver smashed into the rear of his father’s pickup truck. Tom was immediately rushed to the hospital where doctors diagnosed him as re-injuring the thoracic area of his back. At that moment, Tom decided to fight for a third time and try to beat paralysis.

Since these accidents, Tom has sourced his challenges into opportunities for others and himself. He dedicated himself to building The Thomas E. Smith Foundation to serve as a vehicle to help people suffering from paralysis. He also challenged his energy on a personal level, in completing the Boston marathon for the first time in 2018.

His journey to prepare for his first Boston marathon after his accidents included working with Keith Cooper, physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy in the Fall of 2017. He helped Tom prepare his body to complete the 26.2 miles – and continued working together in 2019 – 2022.

“Keith was such an instrumental part of getting my body ready to do a 26.2 mile walk when doctors said I would never be able to do it. It’s a big deal and an even bigger deal for the paralysis community. This shows if you have the right resources in place, what the human body and mind can accomplish.”

Thomas Smith
Professional Physical Therapy Patient 

Keith’s biggest focus during treatment was getting Tom back to normal mobility. Equally important was to show how a relationship can be built between a physical therapist and patient and what you can accomplish together to achieve a goal. Tom credits physical therapy as the best way to maximize success and mobility because his therapist had the ability to monitor his body, prepare him mentally and push him in a way that he did not hurt himself.

Tom also says, “Without PT you don’t make progress. If you don’t have a good physical therapist, you will not achieve maximum success and mobility.”

Click on image to watch Tom’s incredible recovery story.

The Thomas E. Smith Foundation utilizes Tom’s story to inspire people with paralysis and to raise money to donate to people suffering from paralysis as well as medical research. You can support those affected by paralysis by making a donation to the foundation.

If you are in pain, contact us for an assessment and/or physical therapy evaluation, so you can get back to your life healthier and more conformable today. Take the first step and request an appointment.

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