Evansville Teen Out to Prove Doctors Wrong

UPDATE, THU, 9:30 PM: Imagine being told you'll never walk again.

That's the crushing news teenager Ben Trockman got last March after a motor-cross accident, but Ben didn't believe the doctors that told him that.

So his parents, Wayne and Jill Trockman, took him to a leading center for spinal cord injuries.

Shannon Samson and photographer Jefferson Sorley went to Baltimore to check on Ben's progress.

The brain spinal cord and brain work on demand. If you don't use them, you lose them. How can you use them if they don't work together? Doctors in Baltimore say the answer is stimulation.

They're trying to force the spinal cord to grow new cells, find a path to the brain again and maybe even work all by itself.

Father and Son used to bond over motorcycles out in the garage at home. These days, they still talk racing, but in a hospital room in Baltimore.

Ben says, "This is not the way I wanted to spend my senior year."

Ben Trockman uses mouth controls to make his way down this hallway. It's a far cry from the one he pictured himself in at seventeen, during his final year at Harrison High School.

Ben says, "It's hard being away, and it's seems like it's an important time for me to be there. It's like senior year, you're supposed to be there, have fun, party, whatever. You know, but I'm not."

What he's doing instead is trying to get his life back, the one where he played sports, socialized with friends and raced motorcycles for fun.

The fun ended on March 19th when Ben attempted a double jump, crashed and broke his neck. Doctors originally said his C-1/C-2 spinal cord injury was complete, meaning he'd never have any sensation or movement below his neck.

It's the same condition that put actor Christopher Reeve in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Ben says, "There are days I wake up, and I'm like, 'wait a second! I'm supposed to be getting up on my own.' It takes 15 minutes to get people in here to help get me up, and I'm like 'oh, my God!' That's like the worst part of my day."

The day continues with the same humbling experience of having to be hoisted upright by several hands, but this time, there's a trade-off.

It's physical therapy directed by world-renowned Neurologist Dr. John McDonald, who once helped Reeve make substantial progress.

Dr. McDonald's work was so groundbreaking, he was wooed away from St. Louis to Baltimore, to head up the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger institute. His success continues under the guiding principle that exercise is the best treatment for spinal cord injury.

Pattern motion, one arm, one leg moving at the same time, is something we all learn early on, just not so formally.

Pediatric Rehabilitation Doctor, Ewa Brandy's, MD says, "Kids crawl first, and that's the type of movement they practice when the brain and spinal cord develops its function. That's what we try to repeat after injury."

So instead of asking Ben to crawl on the floor, the team of doctors and therapists have him use a glider to mimic the same movement.

The therapist is doing some of the pushing and pulling, but not as much as she used to.

Ben says, "I'm working on doing a lot of the work. I get stronger and stronger every time we do this."

Ben's not just moving his arms and legs on his own, he can feel them moving too.

Ben says, "It's really just like lifting weights, very, very heavy ones."

They may be small strides, but they represent great ones.

Dr. Brandys says "He has motor function below the level of injury. It's still weak. It still requires a lot of work, which is hard."

Hard work is what it will take to keep the muscles from deteriorating, so that if and when the brain and spinal cord do reconnect, they'll send signals to healthy muscle tissue that can actually respond.

Dr. Brandys says, "It's hard. It's hard on the patient who is kind of condemned to go back to infancy and practice, practice, practice, practice."

So in the mean time, there's much to be re-learned, like how to turn up the TV with his thumb. He has has better luck using his mouth.

Ben is also starting to get control over his breathing, using muscles in his chest he couldn't before. Fueled by sheer determination or just plain stubbornness, he plans to get off the ventilator soon.

Ben says, "For them saying I'd never move anything at all, I'm here to prove them wrong."

His dad certainly sees it as only a matter of time before they're back in the garage again.

Wayne Trockman says, "He's got a lot of fight in him. He's a very courageous young man, and we are a family that very much enjoyed motorcycling together. Ben and I will ride again."

First he must complete this slow race to the finish line.

Ben says, "I have no other goal. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. I will walk. Time will tell."

Judge Wayne Trockman is back on the bench this week, and his wife, Jill, has returned to Baltimore. She's been with Ben almost continuously since they got there.

They'll both be coming home for good next Friday.

The Trockman want to thank Welborn Health Plans for making it so easy for Ben to get this specialized treatment.

Ben will have a glider and a stationary bike at his house so he can build on the progress he's made at Kennedy Krieger. Then he'll go back in February and learn more and just keep building.

Previously: After crashing on a motorcycle, doctors told 17-year-old Ben Trockman of Evansville that he would never walk again, but he's out to prove them wrong.

Ben's working hard in an intensive rehabilitation program at a Baltimore Hospital. He's been there for three months.

14 News' Shannon Samson vistited Ben in Baltimore and checked on his progress.

The American Spinal Cord Injury Association rates patients according to the their level of impairment.

A score of "A" means the spinal cord injury is complete. There is no motor or sensory function below a certain level. It's the worst score possible. It's the one Ben Trockman got when he first arrive in Baltimore back in July, but a little hard work and determination can go a long way.

Ben is undergoing therapy at Kennedy Krieger Institute under the direction of the same doctor that once helped actor Christopher Reeve recover about half of his sensory function.

Ben is getting back more of his motor skills. As he works on a glider, a therapist helps him push and pull it.

Ben says, "I'm working on doing a lot of the work. I get stronger and stronger every time we do this. Right now, she's doing most of the work, but it's actually pretty difficult. There is a lot of resistance."

Ben is making so much progress, that on the day we visited him in baltimore, doctors upgraded his ASIA score from "A" to "C". According to the scale, that means he is halfway back to a full recovery.

Tonight on 14 News at 10:00, we'll talk more in detail about exactly how far Ben has come since his accident in March. It's a very inspiring story.