Paralyzed Teen Skis Again Thanks to Therapy and Special Gear
Paralyzed Teen Skis Again Thanks to Therapy and Special Gear

A year after a teenager was left temporarily paralyzed by a rare neurological condition, he’s hitting the slopes again with the help of skiing gear that helps him move while standing straight up. 

Jacob Wald, 13, was playing basketball one morning when he felt his legs “turn to JELL-O.” He had been struck by transverse myelitis, and he became briefly paralyzed from the chest down. 

At the Seattle Children’s South Clinic, he progressed from the wheelchair to walking with crutches, but he still missed the old sports that brought him so much joy. 

Fortunately, Seattle Children’s Hospital had a “Ski Day” just for disabled kids like himself. The event, located on the Cascade Range, provides a skiing venue and adaptive ski gear customized for disabled individuals, all for free. 

Jacob with outrigger skis (Seattle Children's Hospital)
Jacob with outrigger skis. (Courtesy of Seattle Children’s Hospital)

Wald was strapped with “outriggers,” ski poles that have skis attached at the end, enabling him to ski while standing up. 

“My favorite part was being able to do something I did before I was injured,” said Wald. “It made me feel more normal. I was really nervous at first that I wasn’t going to have fun, and I didn’t know if I was able to do it, but it was a lot of fun.”

Ski Day is part of a partnership the hospital has with Outdoors for All, which works with schools, hospitals, and therapeutic centers to create outdoors fun for disabled children. 

Jacob-Skiing-2-683x1024
Jacob with outrigger skis. (Courtesy of Seattle Children’s Hospital)

“Seeing their smiles after hitting the slopes and helping kids experience new things and realize new possibilities is an incredible honor,” said Thera Zylstra, development director for Outdoors for All. 

Wald said that the entire experience taught him the importance of the things in life you take for granted, like walking and running. 

“I’m still on the small slopes,” he said. “But next year I’m going to come back and see what else I can accomplish!”

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