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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Omahan’s love of travel resumes after spinal cord injury

August 31, 2017

Gardening is among the activities Roger Lewis enjoys after suffering a spinal cord injury in November 2016.

The recovery

 Just back from a California road trip with wife Carol, Roger Lewis is already plotting his next getaway. “I continue to make gains to get my life back.” Newly retired as executive director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation, Roger’s love for travel came to a sudden halt last fall. He tripped as he was walking into an eastern Iowa auditorium to see his granddaughter’s musical performance, suffering a spinal cord injury. “I heard a crack in my neck when I fell down on my face. When I gathered myself to get up, I had no feeling in either my arms or legs,” said Roger.

Roger’s fall was impacted by spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, which for Roger, resulted in temporary paralysis to his arms and legs. Flown to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, Roger underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord. Roger chose Madonna for rehabilitation because of its specialized equipment, expertise and location.

“We are very fortunate in this part of the country to have a facility like Madonna available for those of us who face these kinds of problems and challenges to get better.”  Roger benefited from working with spinal cord injury experts like Kathy Sievers, physical therapist. “He was very motivated to get better, to be able to do things on his own and to be able to continue to enjoy his retirement,” Sievers said. 

As Roger improved, he transitioned through Madonna’s continuum of care from the Specialty Hospital to acute rehabilitation to Madonna’s Transitional Care Unit and continued to make gains to be successful and independent at home. For outpatient therapy, Roger chose Omaha’s TherapyPlus. “There are no guarantees to what the extent of your recovery will be, no one can tell … so you have to have patience and the belief you can get your life back,” Roger said.

Post-second surgery, Roger continues outpatient therapy to gain strength and flexibility. Besides travel, Roger volunteers, gardens and enjoys time with his wife and family. “My personal hero has been my wife, Carol, who has learned these last few months what the vows of ‘in sickness and in health’ mean when you’re married.” 

Related story: Retired Children's Foundation director fortunate for Madonna after spinal cord injury

Kelly Roth, occupational therapist, guides Roger Lewis in using the ArmeoSpring to regain function, mobility and overall strength in his arms and shoulders. The Omahan utilized Madonna’s full continuum of care beginning in Lincoln and transitioning to Omaha after suffering a spinal cord injury last fall. 


Roger’s fall affected the central portion of his spinal cord, resulting in significant weakness to his upper extremities including his arms and shoulders. Throughout inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation Roger has benefited from the use of the ArmeoSpring to regain function, mobility and overall strength. This specialized piece of technology is designed to retrain arm and hand function following spinal cord injury as well as stroke, traumatic brain injury or other neurological illness. Therapists use the ArmeoSpring to create the thousands of repetitions necessary to retrain the brain while the patient is immersed in an on-screen virtual environment. “You play games but it’s got a serious purpose and that’s to help you learn how to move your arms to a greater extent, which is very important for my kind of injury,” said Roger.

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