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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Omaha dad’s transverse myelitis diagnosis doesn’t interfere with family time

January 09, 2018

Dan Lenaghan and his family pose in Dan's signature headbands and wristbands on Dan's last day of inpatient rehabilitation at Madonna's Omaha Campus. Dan  says he's 100 percent after spending five weeks inpatient followed by four months outpatient therapy with Madonna's TherapyPlus recovering from transverse myelitis. 

“I feel 100 percent. When I walk around I can walk around all day and not feel tired. Last week I ran a mile and that was a big deal. It wasn’t a fast mile, but I ran,” said Dan Lenaghan, a transverse myelitis survivor.

Dan Lenaghan is back to jogging and skiing.

This after losing feeling and function in his legs and feet Memorial Day weekend.

“I was helping lift his legs from behind up the stair and about halfway up the stairs I just said we have to go to the ER,” said Nicole Lenaghan, Dan's wife. 

At Nebraska Medicine, tests revealed Dan suffered from the neurological condition transverse myletis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, making him unable to walk.

Likely caused by a virus, Dan and Nicole say early on they weren’t sure of the outcome but the couple was confident Madonna’s Omaha Campus was the best place for recovery.

“I went from having any function in my legs to or very little to wiggle my toes to the first day we were here they stood me up,” said Dan.

Dan says from that moment, therapy became his workout, competing with therapists while using specialized equipment. 

"I knew that I was getting every opportunity. I used the Moveo, I used the Proprio, the balance board where they can program it and throw you off balance and play games with bean bags to distract you," said Dan.

"Pool therapy was fantastic. Such the perfect exercise and training for me because I was a danger," said Dan.

Even suiting up in the robotic body-suit known as the Ekso helped retrain his steps.

"To regain that strength to improve his walking so eventually he would be able to walk out of here. he made great strides where he did get to that point where he was able to walk out of here," said Drew Burggraff, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals' physical therapist.  

"I got better at it but I never got great at it. when Drew told me I had maximized the benefit of it I was not upset," said Dan.

During the five weeks Dan spent at Madonna, while Dan traded his wheelchair for a walker and finally a cane, Nicole says birthday parties, Father’s Day and other moments were celebrated and family time went uninterrupted. 

"Bringing them here his room is big and they can be in it for awhile and we can watch a movie together. They can color and then when they were done they needed a break, we could walk around and look at the fish. Every time they came here they got to name the fish," said Nicole.

The couple’s three young children were even incorporated into therapy sessions.

“Occupational therapy one day you were working on just standing and she wrote the alphabet and a  whole bunch of sticky notes and just put them all over the wall and he had to stand there and the girls would yell out a letter and he’d had to find it and pull it down and give it to them,” said Nicole.

“It’s been life-changing in a positive way. The exercises and the routine I started here I think will suite me well in my general life," said Dan. 

Madonna's Neurological Program provides rehabilitation for patients with disorders that affect their body’s nervous system, helping them participate in their life roles at home or in community settings for as long as possible. To learn more, click here.