NeuroHope: Reeve Foundation Spotlight!
NeuroHope is the newest affiliate of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), and has been featured as a spotlight program on their website / newsletter! Read the original article here!
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“There is no preparation for a spinal cord injury,” says Chris Leeuw. “You wake up one morning a physically fit, able-bodied person and in the blink of an eye your life is completely transformed. When you are looking at paralysis and the potential permanence of that, that’s a situation that’s almost impossible to describe.”
Leeuw is the Founder and Executive Director of NeuroHope, the newest Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network® (NRN) Community Fitness and Wellness Facility in Indianapolis, IN. In August 2010, he sustained a level C4 spinal cord injury in a swimming accident that initially left the then 28-year-old paralyzed from the neck down. Like many, Leeuw was given a poor outlook.
“After a few weeks, I began to see some signs of hope,” said Leeuw. “Early recovery in my fingers and right leg gave me the inspiration I needed to do more. My time in outpatient therapy was up and I was still mostly paralyzed. I knew that with more rehab, I had a good chance of recovery.”
In 2011, he travelled to Neuroworx in South Jordan, UT, a NRN Community Fitness and Wellness Facility at the time.
“Neuroworx understood neurological recovery and had the resources and experience to help me get my life back,” said Leeuw. “It took two years to get where I am today, walking and independent. Recovery is slow and different for everyone, but much of the journey is similar for all who are hurt.”
Although Leeuw has had a good deal of recovery, his injury is still a big part of his everyday life.
“I wanted to bring the cutting-edge interventions I’d experienced at Neuroworx back to Indianapolis,” said Leeuw. “Living with a spinal cord injury is not just about recovery, it is about long-term maintenance. Every movement is a conscious effort. These recoveries are a lot more than neurologic return, a lot of it is maintaining your body afterward.”
In 2015, he opened NeuroHope as a part-time clinic in a small University of Indianapolis gym with a therapy mat and a vision.
“Right now in traditional healthcare, people get discharged from inpatient and insurance will reimburse only for a limited number of outpatient visits. Then they go home,” said Leeuw. “These individuals need more time to maximize their recovery. They need time to learn some of the skills to deal with their new life, and in most communities, there is no place for them to go. There is a void in long-term rehab options.”
Leeuw reached out for community support. Working with the Indiana state legislature, Leeuw received a nearly $1 million grant from the Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Research Fund which allowed NeuroHope to expand. The facility moved into a larger space, bought new equipment and now sees 50 participants a year, with a hope to double that number by 2019.
“My main goals were to create a clinic where people could come for continued, affordable care and we wanted to join the NRN,” said Leeuw. “I saw first-hand the value of the NRN interventions and I wanted badly to bring that to Indiana.”
In 2017, NeuroHope’s staff was invited to begin training to become a NRN Community Fitness and Wellness facility.
“We are thrilled to be part of the NRN. It gives us a chance to reach more people and bring that level of care to Indiana for affordable private pay rates,” said Leeuw. “Healthcare is great here but we want to go beyond that so people can continue their care. This is about providing a wellness center in addition to therapy where disabled individuals, wounded veterans, stroke survivors, brain injury survivors can go to exercise to live a long, happy and healthy life.”
Leeuw continues, “An injury changes you, changes your family, and changes your character. Every family needs more help when they leave the hospital. Our hope is to be there for them as they navigate their new path, and put them in the best position to maximize their recovery and quality of life.”