LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - An Arkansas man who has been paralyzed since jumping off a bridge into water that turned out to be shallow, is searching for ways to get some of his mobility back.
That accident left the young college graduate with a broken neck and a spinal cord injury.
Since then, J. D. Bruning's caretakers have helped him monitor medical research that can change his outcome. A procedure called epidural stimulation has helped others like him and is giving him hope for improvement.
While he waits to find out if he'll be selected for a medical trial, he's also got a secret weapon in girlfriend Kelly Lamb, who's by his side in their journey of "running to walk again."
Spirit and determination drives Kelly to run marathons, raising money for research to help people with spinal cord injuries.
She also does it for love, to help her boyfriend J. D., a quadriplegic.
"I'm going to keep running until he can either run or get the e-stem and that's what I intend to do," she says.
They've known each other since college. But after graduating from the U of A, one day, nearly four years ago, he and his friends decided to jump off a bridge. J. D. went first.
"It wasn't quite as deep as we thought it was," he explains.
"I know there was a point where you didn't want to live," Fox 16's Donna Terrell says to J.D.
"It was difficult because I was sort of, for a while I was not wanting to fight that battle and not deal with all the struggles we have to deal with," he tells her.
And there have been struggles for J. D. and his family. Told by doctors it was unlikely he'd ever be able to use his hands or legs, he goes to another state once a year for special treatments and has seen small amounts of progress.
But it's at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the one for which Kelly runs marathons to raise money, where tangible progress for people like J. D. is being made.
An epidural stimulation trial is ongoing. Researchers place a small device at the base of the spinal cord that sends a signal reminding the spine of its potential. So far, several paralyzed patients can now voluntarily move their legs and stand on their own. A second trial is planned for this year.
"I would obviously love to be part of their next trial," says J. D.
"Ultimately, that's the goal. That he would be able to have that surgery and regain his independence," adds Kelly.
There are no guarantees J. D. will be chosen for the trial, but he still has his dreams.
"I want to have a job, have a family and have kids and all of that sort of stuff," he says.
That "stuff" encourages Kelly, who has already raised more than 50-thousand dollars for the Reeve Foundation.
"There's still a lot of good left and a lot of joy left that I can have in this life," he continues, giving Kelly more spirit and determination to run, hoping it will be J. D. who one day crosses a finish line of his own.
The day J. D. jumped in the river, there was an off-duty EMT who helped get him out of the water because J. D. was paralyzed immediately. Had that EMT not been there, J. D. might have drowned. He never again saw or got the name of the man who saved his life.
To learn more about J. D. and Kelly, click on the attached web extra above.
To learn more about the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the progress being made for people with spinal cord injuries, click here. The Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving quality of life for people living with paralysis.
The family wonders why the student is being punished for reporting…
"My jaw hit the floor."