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Experimental spine treatment helping Lawrence man, paralyzed from the neck down, move again

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    LAWRENCE, Kan. (WDAF) — A Lawrence man paralyzed from the neck down is moving with big goals in sight for 2020. He’s part of an experimental research study in Kentucky.

Jerod Nieder’s life changed on a family vacation in 2011.

He dove into the ocean, hit a rock and immediately broke his neck. It was the calm before the storm.

“There was no panic,” Nieder said. “It’s just kind of like, you better hold your breath or you’re not going to make it.”

Completely conscious and paralyzed from the neck down, Nieder was pulled out of the ocean by his little brother, and nothing was the same.

“You’re just kind of in shock at that point,” Nieder said. “Everything’s changed, and you don’t know what’s going to keep changing and what you’re stuck with. It’s just really crazy.”

Seven years later, everything has changed again. This time, for the better.

The 37-year-old was selected for an experimental spinal cord treatment in Louisville, Kentucky.

“That was just the best news ever. Like, I was bawling,” Nieder said.

Doctors put a device on his lower spine in May. It’s supposed to send electronic signals along the spinal cord, giving him the ability to move muscles.

His caregiver turned girlfriend, Hanna Alcock, has been there for all the follow-ups and downs.

After several attempts of trying to lift his right knee, “All of a sudden,” Alcock said, “everybody’s heads turn, and he just went through all the motions.”

Nieder went six for six moving his toes, ankles and legs.

“To sit here and look at my legs that have been lifeless for seven years and to get them to move when I want them to — it’s amazing,” Nieder said.

Next up? Standing.

Four trainers and a lot of hard work later, the couple smiled for their first picture together, standing upright side by side.

“I didn’t even know where to enter, where to put my arms, if I had to stabilize him,” Alcock said.

“You were like, ‘I don’t know how to stand next to you,'” Nieder said laughing.

Together they’ve got big plans. She’ll run, and he’ll hand cycle in this year’s New York City Marathon.

“We’re each other’s coaches,” Nieder said.

“Which may not end well,” Alcock added, laughing.

Alcock already completed it once with Nieder on her mind all 54,000+ steps.

“I just thought that every single step that I’m doing is one that Jerod is hoping to do in the future,” Alcock said with tears in her eyes. “Like, I take every step for granted, and Jerod is just look for that first.”

“I think if you work hard and keep your head up, you can get better,” Nieder said. “Don’t give up hope.”

Along with doing the New York City Marathon, Nieder and Alcock are raising money for research through the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

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