Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Lincoln man back to work in aviation one year after serious spinal cord injury

February 04, 2021

The last few years have been a roller coaster ride for James Rosenkranz. After breaking his leg in a 2018 car crash, James’ hope for a brief recovery has turned into years of rehabilitation. While healing from trauma, he developed a blood clot that traveled to his lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, and wound up in the hospital again. James slipped into a two-week coma, losing function of both legs. He suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. Doctors weren’t optimistic, giving James only an 11% chance of recovering. But that didn’t stop the retired Navy veteran from setting the bar high working with his care team at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals-Lincoln Campus.

“I know I am going to be back at 100% again, it’s just going to take time,” James said.

His drive and determination impressed his team as James progressed through Madonna’s continuum of care. Using specialized technology like the Lokomat, ICARE by SportsArt, Ekso Exoskeleton, as well as aquatic therapy, helped James achieve his goal of walking.

“James is one of the hardest working patients I’ve ever worked with,” said Sara Hohensee, PT, “He always pushed himself beyond my expectations and that totally showed in the amazing progress he made while in acute rehabilitation.”

Hohensee said seeing James walk on the Lokomat was a cool experience for both of them.

“During his time in acute rehabilitation, James’s biggest goal was to return home independently to his third story apartment, 32 stairs without elevator access while in his wheelchair, and that’s exactly what he did,” Hohensee said. “No matter the circumstances, James was always very positive, determined and willing to do whatever was asked of him during his physical therapy sessions. It has been so rewarding to see his incredible progress, and I’m grateful to have played a part in it.” A year later, he is back at work full time as an engineer at Duncan Aviation. His employer adapted his work stations so he could work safely from his wheelchair.

“James is family to us here at Duncan, so after the accident, the shop continued to support him and wanted to promote growth for him,” said Scott Stokie, Duncan Aviation Engine Overhaul Manager, “He would leave Madonna and come show the team videos of him walking during therapy, you could tell it brought him so much joy. We all saw how hard he was working at Madonna and we knew he wanted back on the floor working on engines. Everyone at Duncan helped get his work station adapted, so he could work from his chair or standing up.”

James also purchased a car and adapted it himself with hand controls allowing him to drive independently to work. James continues to push himself toward his goal of walking again, with help from his outpatient therapy team at Madonna.

“Although James met a few obstacles on his path to recovery, he never lost sight of his goals and continued to work hard each time he came to therapy,” said Marin Salisbury, PT. “He would set goals for himself and make sure that he worked with his therapists to find ways to achieve them.”

Salisbury said one of the most rewarding days was watching James take his first steps independently. “He broke out in tears, saying that he had often doubted if that day would ever come, but it finally had,” Salisbury said. “Since his family lives out of state, he loved to take videos of his progress and text them to his mom and other family so that they could share in his successes. Seeing how far he’s come keeps James motivated and stepping toward the future.”


To see coverage of James' story from Channel 8 News, click here. 

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