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Health Spotlight: From tragedy to triumph

Health Spotlight: From tragedy to triumph

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — From a tragic accident on the sunny beaches of California to conquering Oregon’s mightiest peak, one man’s journey stunned doctors who told him he’d never walk again.

To see 24-year-old Vishal Shukla today, you’d never know that just a year ago, a body surfing accident left him unable to even lift a finger.

“I instantly shattered my C5 vertebrae. Just like a light switch, I broke my neck and I got paralyzed from the neck down, and right off the bat, I knew I was paralyzed,” said Shukla.

Doctors initially told Shukla he’d never walk again—a devastating prognosis for a young man who had spent his life surfing, hiking, and mountain climbing.

“I was literally just seeing my own body deteriorate just laying down for two weeks at a time. My fingernails stopped growing. My muscles were atrophying,” explained Shukla.

But then he found strength and inspiration.

“I was sitting in my wheelchair at the time looking out the window at Mt. Olympus and I looked down at my phone at Mt. Hood, and it just basically clicked. Right? Like it would be awesome if, at some point in my life, I could recover to the point where I could climb Mt. Hood,” said Shukla.

As most goals go, it began with baby steps—first the twitch of a finger, then standing up and shuffling forward. Ten steps led to 60 steps which led to 200 steps. And just one month after his accident, Shukla walked one mile.

“If Vishal had just sat around and not put in the effort early on, it’s very unlikely he’d be able to move the way he’s moving now,” explained Peter Spence, a physical therapist at Intermountain Health.

Just 14 months after being told he may never walk again, Shukla stood at the top of Oregon’s Mount Hood.

“I did want to give up at least a dozen times, but I knew for a fact, a month from now, when I’m comfortable at home in my own house, knowing I did not climb the summit of that mountain when it was only a mile away, I’d just be full of regret,” said Shukla.

Scaling Mount Hood wasn’t just a personal goal for Shukla, it was also a philanthropic one. He was able to raise more than $1,600 for Neuroworx, a non-profit rehab facility in Utah.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.