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Leeuw Proud To Walk A Mile In His Own Shoes

Posted May 2, 2012

They said he wouldn't walk again. He probably wouldn't even be able to move his thumbs let alone his hands or arms. But on April 28, in Louisville, Ky., Miami Dolphins fan Chris Leeuw of Indianapolis walked a mile in support of the Christopher Reeves' Foundation. The walk was part of the Kentucky Derby Festival the weekend before the Derby.

"I made my mile with no breaks," Leeuw said. "We were able to raise money for the Foundation so it was a great success. I still have major deficits on my left side.  My leg and arm drag along for the ride, but compared to where I was two years ago it's a miracle."

It was something that two years ago this August he was told as being impossible.

On August 8, 2010 a freak accident left Leeuw paralyzed with shattered C-4, C-5 vertebrae.

Jumping from an abandoned bridge into a river, Leeuw landed in the water. However, another person followed him too closely and almost immediately landed on Leeuw’s head. Floating upside down, unable to move, Leeuw knew that he broke his neck.  He was life-flighted to an area hospital where his life changed along with that of his family.

Following the accident, Leeuw was put into intensive care and was later moved into a nursing facility where he would begin the arduous task of rehabilitation.  At one point, his nurse, blunt as needed, let Leeuw and his family know that accidents of this type rarely have a full recovery.  Even partial recoveries were a rarity.

Leeuw went through many ups and downs over the next several months as he battled infections and the rigors of rehabilitation.  But the good news was that he was able to "twitch" parts of his body and that gave him motivation to fight.

"At first it literally felt like I survived to see my death date." Leeuw said recently.  "It's hard to accept that you'll never again return to your normal life and take part in all the simple things I once took for granted.  But early on I was pretty devoted to change the outcome as soon as I was able to feel those first firings."

As the time on the clock ticked from days to weeks and into months, Leeuw found hope from his mother, supporting family and the team his supported. The Miami Dolphins had received word of his accident and sent Leeuw a personalized authentic Jersey that would hang in his rehab room and his nursing home room. The Miami Dolphins Foundation would later make a donation to his walk and become his official sponsor.

“That was awesome,” Leeuw said.  “They sent me an authentic personalized jersey a month after the accident.   It was amazing to know the Dolphins were aware of my story, and they would reach out like that."
 
Leeuw, who a short time earlier had begun to spill his passion for the Dolphins on to a fan website, PhinPhanatic.com as a staff writer, had graduated from the University of Miami. After contemplating a career in print journalism, Leeuw turned to broadcast journalism.  His writing for PhinPhanatic.com would eventually give him more of an outlet for his talents than he realized.

Leeuw felt compelled to talk about how football helped him through the tough times.

"It's amazing how when facing such dismal life events, sports can be such a mental respite.  I still watched every game that season.  I looked forward to Dolphins Sunday every week."

Leeuw's mother, Monice, also noticed the change that something so simple brought to her son.

"I won't forget the joy on his face when he received an official Miami Dolphin football jersey with his name across the back,” Mrs. Leeuw said. “A few weeks later he was sent a cleat covered with signatures from the players.  It meant so much that this team he has so admired and followed for all these years actually took the time and effort to think of him. They remained prominent fixtures in his room and always a lively topic of conversation."

Leeuw’s rehabilitation took him from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City to a company called NeuroWorx.  Leeuw continued his journey of rehabilitation away from the comforts of his hometown.  Through it all he kept his focus on defying what the doctors and nurses had told him.  
 
"Most people don't have to face this kind of tragedy,” Mrs. Leeuw said. “But most people don't experience the kind of love we've been shown either. It was a huge comfort, more than I can adequately express, for all of us knowing so many were sharing our burden and were there to help us all along the way... and it still is."

To find out how you can help Leeuw with his recovery, or simply learn more about his recovery efforts, please visit http://support.chrisleeuw.com/.

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