The accident that changed everything
Like many children growing up in Green River, Wyoming, Dustin Shillcox spent his childhood playing outdoors. Dustin loves four-wheeling, riding snow mobiles in the winter and water skiing on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in the summer.
In August 2010, Dustin was driving between Rock Springs and Green River on Interstate 80 when the tire on his work vehicle blew out. The vehicle struck the guard rail in the median and rolled. Dustin wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected, breaking his back, elbow, several ribs and sternum, and both of his lungs collapsed.
Dustin was flown by emergency aircraft to Salt Lake City for treatment and recovery. His spinal cord injury was severe; his lower body and legs are completely paralyzed and doctors told him he would never be able to move his legs again.
“That’s been one of the hardest things for me, just trying to go back out and ride the four-wheelers and snow mobiles in the winter,” Dustin said. “It’s just about trying to find things that I may have to do a little differently now.”
Experimental implant device brings renewed hope
Dustin learned about a new breakthrough in spinal cord injury treatment about nine months after his accident. A doctor at the University of Kentucky in Louisville had surgically implanted a device on Rob Summers, the first test subject, that allowed Summers to stand on his own without assistance.
Dustin immediately applied and was selected to become one of only a handful of other test subjects. The device was implanted in his lower back at the beginning of 2013.
Without such sophisticated technology providing just the right electrical impulses to tell his legs what to do, Dustin’s chances of standing are very slim. Even now, Dustin doesn’t have feeling in his legs.
Dustin’s sister Ashley created a blog to update friends and family on his progress right after the accident. She recently announced that Dustin is now able to stand on his own.
“I mean it’s pretty amazing, just being able to stand after three years.”