Living a full life with a spinal cord injury
Lukas Czech of Woodbury, Minnesota graduated with a double major from Hamline University, and was in the process of starting his own business as a building contractor. He and his partner were new parents.
This all changed in a moment. While remodeling an old building, Czech was finishing some work in the attic when he succumbed to heat and fumes and fell through the ceiling, a distance of 30 feet. He was air lifted to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). Czech would learn later that he had a T3 (chest level) spinal cord injury with a fracture at the C2 level (high neck) and a traumatic brain injury. He also had multiple skull fractures and broken bones, a paralyzed right arm and experienced multiple organ failure. He was in a coma and on a ventilator for nearly a month.
Czech had an extended stay at HCMC and Bethesda. He underwent multiple surgeries and recovered from many infections including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a paralyzed vocal cord, and treatment of pulmonary emboli (multiple blood clots in his lungs).
Once he became stable, Czech began rehabilitation at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, both at the Golden Valley Campus and at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He also has had outpatient therapies at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – St. Croix.
A single dad who shared joint custody of his young daughter, Czech needed to learn not only how to be responsible for his own complex needs, but also the needs of his energetic little girl. He became a homemaker, tutor, chauffeur and dance dad. He has learned to rely on himself for daily activities such as homemaking, parenting, scheduling and transportation. Throughout these sometimes insurmountable challenges, Czech has sought opportunities to further himself through perseverance, self-advocacy, research, volunteer work and networking.
With lots of hard work during rehabilitation and self-determination, Czech has gracefully learned how to live his life despite his injury. He has also been a mentor to other patients and families dealing with spinal cord injury. Czech returned to school to earn a degree in computer-aided drafting and design, from which he graduated with honors.
According to Czech’s therapists, Alisa Kocian, OTR/L, Meg Erlandson, PT and Kim Krueger, PT, anyone who meets him is instantly drawn to his magnetism and positive outlook. He immediately makes people feel comfortable with his disability.
As he continues to pursue work in his field, Czech works in the computer department at Best Buy where he has assisted many people with disabilities to find computers and technology to help them in their everyday lives and to achieve their educational and vocational goals. Czech has also used his natural speaking ability to reach out to lawmakers to further champion the needs of people with disabilities. His passion, perseverance, and voice make him an incredible survivor and an inspiration to all those he meets.