Mark Neagli of Houston, Texas, discovered the benefits of the United Spinal Association through his physical therapist at TIRR Memorial Hermann Institute for Rehabilitation and Research after he fell down a flight of stairs and became an incomplete paraplegic. Mark sat down recently with Cure Medical to share about his SCI and upcoming Golf Tournament.
“On May 31, 2016, I just had finished a bicycle ride that I did several times a week,” Mark remembers. “I needed to move a dresser from my garage to an upstairs bedroom. My son-in-law, Travis Kalen, had come over to my house, and he helped me carry the dresser up the stairs.”
“I was holding the back end of the dresser. When we got to the top of the stairs, I wasn’t feeling well. So, I sat down. When I sat down, my son-in-law pulled the dresser forward, and I don’t know what happened next. The next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of the stairs, and I was having a difficult time breathing.”
Mark’s family called neighbors, and they called 911. When the 911 operator picked up, they said “Mark’s not conscious and he has shallow breathing.”
When the first responders arrived, they intubated Mark to make his breathing easier, and the decision was made to fly him to the Texas Medical Center at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. The Life Flight helicopter landed about a block from Neagli’s house. Mark was transferred from the ambulance to the helicopter to the trauma center at the hospital.
“After I sat down on the stairs, I didn’t remember anything for 2 days,” Mark explains now. “Later, my family told me what had happened.”
Mark’s Life before his Fall focused on multiple sclerosis
Prior to his accident, Mark had been extremely active in his community and through his job with the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. As an executive for the south central region, he traveled often for work. In his off-time, he had a passionate love for cycling. Before he went to work, he would ride 10 miles on his bicycle, three or four times a week. On the weekends, he’d often ride 40 or 50 miles at one time.
At the time of his injury, he’d worked at the MS Society for 18 years as the head of their fundraising efforts in Houston. The biggest fundraiser of the year for the MS Society in Houston was a BikeMS ride from Austin to Houston, an event held every April. The riders would travel 165 miles in 2 days. Often, 10,000 to 13,000 riders would participate in this event each year.
Mark also owned a bicycle shop that he opened in 1980 and he enjoyed organizing rides in the local community. “I had set-up several bike rides throughout Houston to help promote my bicycle shop,” Mark says. “So, I joined the MS Society to specifically help develop its big ride from Austin to Houston. Our store became the official bicycle store for that big ride.”
Meet Mark Neagli, the Family Man
Mark and his family of five children have always been a very close-knit unit. His youngest Connor is 23 now, Cameron is 24, Kaitlyn is 30, Taylor is 31 and Robert is 35. When the children were little, Mark remembers putting them in a trailer that he pulled with his bicycle and taking them on rides. And when they got older, they would ride tandem bicycles together.
Waking Up with paralysis in the Hospital
“When I woke up, my daughter Taylor was in the hospital room with me, and she told me every detail about how I was injured,” Mark recalls.
“For 5 weeks, I only was able to communicate with my family by using a signboard with alphabetical letters, because of the tube down my throat. For the first 2-3 months, all five of my children stayed with me at the hospital, working in shifts around the clock to be at my bedside.”
Forty-eight hours after Mark’s accident, the doctors said that they were fairly sure he wouldn’t get any movement back from his neck down, due to a spinal cord injury at C3 and C4. Because the injury was incomplete, it was hard to tell what would come back.
One day when the doctors were in his room, testing movement and sensation, Mark recalls, “My son Robert was with me. The room was kind of dark. Just at the end of my examination, I wiggled my left toe. Robert saw that movement, but the doctor’s didn’t. As the doctors were leaving the room, Robert stopped them and turned on the light. He asked me to move my toe again, and I did.”
“I was relieved that I had some type of movement in my lower extremities.”
Because Mark was paralyzed, his ability to breathe on his own and to breathe deeply were his doctors’ major concerns. But, within a couple months, Mark’s breathing tube was removed after he was able to breathe on his own. He was able to start eating solid food and he was beginning to relearn how to talk.
“Erin Henry was my occupational therapist, and my physical therapist was Adele Bosquez,” Mark explains. “They both worked with me from 2-4 hours every day.”
Mark progressed and finally, he was able to get into a power chair and use his upper body with electrical stimulation. After a couple of weeks, he could stand with a standing table that helped control his blood pressure. Eventually, he could stand without his blood pressure dropping.
Today, Mark is able to stand with help, move his feet and take steps with support. He utilizes assistive technology to aid his independence, including a mobile arm support to feed himself and Dragon software to operate his computer. He still continues to work for the MS Society part-time and he does fundraising as well as volunteer leader support.
United Spinal in houston Had a Big Impact on Mark’s Recovery
“My daughter Kaitlyn reached out to Rafferty Laredo, the executive director of Houston Chapter of the United Spinal Association, and he gave her a wealth of information about spinal cord injuries and resources for people who are potential caregivers,” Mark shares. “He also gave her the names and email addresses of suppliers who make and supply equipment for people with spinal cord injuries.”
Rafferty and the Houston United Spinal chapter worked with Mark’s family and provided information to help them feel more comfortable about Mark’s condition.
Rafferty helped them understand what Mark’s path would be and what they could expect for at least the next year or two.
“Because Rafferty knew many of the individuals at TIRR, he was better able to inform us on the information they were giving us about my rehabilitation and about moving forward with my injury.”
Introducing the Mark Neagli Golf Tournament to Benefit Houston United Spinal
As Mark continued his outpatient care with TIRR, his son Robert developed an idea for a fundraiser and began to work with Rafferty Laredo on the idea of developing a golf tournament to benefit the United Spinal Association. And all their hard work has paid off.
The 1st Annual Mark Neagli Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the United Spinal Association of Houston is set for Saturday, July 29, 2017 at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course.
Teams and supporters can get more information about the golf tournament here.
The community has responded well through sponsorship of the tournament and putting teams together to participate. “We’re hoping to have about 80 golfers sign up for the tournament and hope to raise $15,000-$20,000 to benefit the United Spinal Association,” Mark explains. Currently, about 45 players already have signed up.
“I’m very humbled that this tournament has been named for me, but I wanted to do something for everyone who is affected by spinal cord injury like I am,” Mark says.
When the idea of the golf tournament came up, I explained that I wanted to raise money for all the people in the Houston area that had spinal cord injuries like me. With Rafferty Laredo’s help, we wanted to connect the United Spinal Association with this golf tournament and fundraising event.”
Cure Medical Supports United Spinal Programs to Benefit People with SCI
Cure Medical is actively involved in financially supporting community programs and medical research that benefits people who have paralysis or urinary retention. We call it the Cure Commitment!
Our commitment to the community we serve compels Cure Medical to support medical research worldwide in pursuit of a cure for paralysis. Learn more here.
Cure representative Matt Anderson will be helping out at the Mark Neagli Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the United Spinal Association of Houston this Saturday, July 29, 2017 at the Jersey Meadow Golf Course. We hope to see you there too!
Mark Looks Toward his Future and It’s Bright
“I hope to see continued improvement in my physical condition and progress in my work and in my ability to work. I really feel fortunate that my family and friends have supported me and encouraged me through the whole process of my accident. I want to continue learning to stand, possibly walk and get more mobility in my upper body,” Mark adds.
“Due to this accident, I’ve learned how important people helping people is. I’ve learned not to take life for granted, and I make sure I live every day based on who I am, and where I live.
“Through God and through faith in my family and friends, I’ve learned to do the best I can every day that I’m here on Planet Earth. Most of all, I want to thank everyone who has supported me and my family since my accident. One of the most important things I’ve learned from my doctors is that my recovery is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.
My cardiologist gave me a poem that really has helped. It reads, ‘Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by yard is hard. Mile by mile takes awhile.’”
Looking for more SCI Support & Resources?
A new book called “SCI: The First 90 Days“ is now available to the Cure Nation, thanks to the generosity of author Sam Maddox.
We understand this free resource won’t make the anxiety of adjusting to life with SCI disappear, but it can help you process it. That’s why we’re helping Sam share this guide with you and your loved ones.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this book is presented for the purpose of educating and informing readers about spinal cord injury. Nothing contained herein should be construed as medical diagnosis or treatment advice. Information in this book should not be used in place of the advice of a physician or qualified health care provider.
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