Thomas Nunez with Ben Marean, physical therapist assistant

Thomas Nunez, a former member of the Air Force, was diagnosed in June 2014 with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that led to muscle weakness, pain and sensory problems, as well as paralysis of his legs.


Nunez became dependent on a wheelchair. Due to prolonged sitting and a lack of sensation, he developed a pressure sore down to the bone that required hospitalization and then admission to Valley West Health Care Center in Eugene, Oregon, in November 2014.


For the first months, Nunez had to stay in a specialty air bed in order to heal his wound. He was totally dependent on others to take care of him and could not get out of bed because of his extensive wounds and infection. Associates had to use a Hoyer lift to transfer him from place to place.


Physical and occupational therapists started to work with Nunez to prevent muscle loss and improve his coordination, range of motion and independence with the use of specialty equipment. One such tool was the LiteGait® machine, a weight-supporting system that allowed him to practice walking. Another treatment that made a difference was electrical stimulation.


Rehabilitation wasn’t an easy road. Nunez experienced many setbacks due to infections since his immune system was compromised and had to be treated in the hospital several times. However, he never gave up, and with the help of his therapists, he is currently looking for an assisted living facility to move into.


Nunez can now walk with a walker and complete his basic self-care needs independently.


“Tom reports that his neurologist is astonished by his success and that he has never had a patient with transverse myelitis that has improved so fast in strength and function,” said Tyler Henry, director of rehab.


“My therapists were great – they believed in me,” said Nunez. “Physical therapy gave me the strength, and occupational therapy gave me the confidence to use it to make me independent again.”


Nunez continues to make progress through the restorative nursing program. 

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