His tragic injury drew statewide attention when it happened last fall. The candlelight vigils and fundraisers that followed have subsided, but not Chris Norton's fight to return to his old life.
Steps: it is a relative term. One of many in the new life of Chris Norton. Chris says, "Sometimes it feels like if you try to go slow and easy it's really hard, once you kind of get in a rhythm, it feels really relaxed and easy."
Easy: that's another one. A term once simple to consider, and one that's not anymore. "I never knew how complicated walking was until now. All the different things that have to be in place..."
Healing a body from a spinal cord injury is much the same. It demands patience despite aggravation, strength from foreign limbs, and endless, minute, excruciating steps. He adds, "If I can just get my right, I wouldn't have to step over as much with my left. It would go a lot smoother."
Megan Gill, a Physical Therapist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota says, “That's the first question that even patients and their family ask, especially the neurosurgeon, after they come out of surgery is 'Am I ever going to walk again?' or 'Is my family member ever going to walk again?' so it's what a lot of people focus their whole rehab and their therapy goals on is the walking."
Walking unassisted is still a long way off. In the mean time, it's up to Norton, his family and his team of physical therapists to focus on progress. Again--it's relative, but it's real and here's an example:
Chris says, "It just feels awesome that you're making progress and everything is still going the right way. But then afterward, after I get on my elbows or do something new, I want to do the next step so it's always looking a step further."
"Rehab goes beyond just whether you can walk and whether you can get up and do the things that you normally did” Says Gill, “It's getting your life back and doing the things that you enjoy doing."
The new life in Rochester, Minnesota is rehabilitating Norton's parents, too. They've been here the whole time and have found some peace.
Chris’s Father, Terry Norton says, "This was a tragic injury, it was a tragic event, but we needed to prevent it from being a tragedy. To me, a tragedy is when nothing good comes out of it."