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Published on November 15, 2017

Michael Richardson

Teen regains strength through Gundersen Boscobel

On May 15, 2016, Michael Richardson and his dad, Jamey, were outside working together as they often do on weekends. Jamey was hauling material with the family's skid-steer when Michael noticed the machine struggling with a particularly heavy load.

Eager to assist, he hopped on top of the engine to help balance the weight, one leg on each side.

He was still there when the skid-steer's hydraulics stopped working. The machine's arms crashed down, crushing Michael's legs.

Jamey rushed his son to Gundersen Boscobel Emergency and Urgent Care in Boscobel, Wis., where Michael—at risk of losing his legs—was transferred to Gundersen's La Crosse Hospital. The 15-year-old (now 16) was released 18 days later, but his recovery has extended far beyond those two and a half weeks.

Through the many ups and downs since, Michael has kept his sight set on a specific goal: regaining full strength in his legs so that he can resume the active lifestyle he loves, including helping his dad with various projects outside.

"The Boscobel Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy Department helped write the next chapter of our son's life." – Heidi Richardson, Michael's mom

"He has always been the kind of kid who takes the bumps in the road and says, 'OK, this is where we need to go,' and then he gets there," says his mom, Heidi.

The day after Michael was released from the hospital, he began physical therapy at Gundersen Boscobel Hospital with therapist Jen Kruger. At the time, he could walk short distances with a walker and was using a wheelchair at home. Less than three weeks later, Michael no longer needed the walker or wheelchair and was relying only on the help of one crutch.

Along with physical therapy, Michael has had five surgeries since his initial hospital stay, including a procedure in May 2017 to lengthen his Achilles tendon. Except for a few weeks following that treatment, Michael has pushed to maintain regular physical therapy sessions with Jen. He now attends two appointments per week, continuing to work on the strength, balance and flexibility of his legs.

"Jen always pushes me to do my best," Michael says. "She likes thinking of new things for me to do, and she makes it fun."

Michael's determination and progress has required Jen to get creative with treatments, she says, and has pushed her to grow as a therapist, too.

"I'm so proud of Michael's hard work. I remember when he first came to physical therapy after his injury," Jen says. "He was in a wheelchair, and his foot was too sensitive to touch. He was so driven to get back to life as usual that I knew we had a lot of hard work in front of us. Our initial focus was on walking and just putting weight on his foot."

More than a year and a half later, the high-school junior has returned to all of the activities he enjoyed prior to the accident, though Michael will continue to work with his rehabilitation team until the function in his legs is as close to 100 percent as possible.

Heidi attributes her son's progress largely to Michael's "can-do attitude." His fortitude, combined with physical therapy, has made all the difference. "The Boscobel Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy Department helped write the next chapter of our son's life," Heidi says.

To learn more about physical therapy and rehabilitation at Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics, call (608) 375-6311.