New center gets those with spinal-cord injury on their feet


By Marni Jameson, Orlando Sentinel
6:57 p.m. EST, February 22, 2012

Setting their wheelchairs aside, three quadriplegics each got on their feet one morning this week and moved parts of their bodies medical professionals had all but given up on.

A former high-school-football player — who suffered a spinal-cord injury in a tackle two years ago during the final game of his senior year — worked out on an elliptical machine. A 29-year-old mother rear-ended at a red light 12 years ago took strides on a treadmill.


And a former insurance executive — the visionary behind the novel recovery center in Longwood — stood balanced against a metal frame, his thigh muscles quivering and firing as they worked to get stronger.

All were gaining strength and hope at CORE, the Center of Recovery and Exercise. The new 3,200-square-foot facility officially opens today, although it has been slowly rolling out services since November.

"I feel 5-foot-10 again — instead of 3 feet," said CORE founder Matthew Davies, paralyzed by a 2005 auto accident on Interstate 4 near Daytona Beach.

The tragedy stunned the community, in which Davies wore many hats, including that of president for UnitedHealthcare of Central and North Florida. He was equally well-known for his volunteer efforts with groups working to improve access to health care.

Making muscles fire

In April, as he began a neurorecovery program in a Sanford center with exercise physiologist Malerie Murphy, Davies stood for the first time since his accident.

"When I first saw him, he couldn't hold his core straight and barely had enough energy to speak," said Murphy, now CORE's senior trainer. The fact that he is upright is the result of new — but not yet widely embraced — advancements in neurorecovery.

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