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Our Stories: Robert Wudlick

Working to get stronger every day

Robert Wudlick of Excelsior, Minnesota, is an experienced outdoorsman. In 2011, while on a month-long rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, he made a shallow dive off a raft while beached for lunch. Swept up by a current, Wudlick hit his head on the river bottom, fracturing his spine at the C4-C5 level. He also severely bruised his spinal cord.

After a stint at Craig Hospital near Denver, Wudlick returned home to Minnesota and continued his rehabilitation at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Golden Valley Campus.  He began participating with the Institute’s Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise (ABLE) program in October 2011, with a goal of regaining as much independence as possible, starting with one hour of guided exercise, three times a week. 

Over the past two years, Wudlick has focused on strengthening his core and regaining as much function as possible in his arms. He started with an arm support system while walking on the Therastride treadmill. Within months, he was able to swing both arms while walking on the treadmill and bear more than 60 percent of his weight. His core strength has greatly improved, as well his upper extremity range of motion.

After his first three months in ABLE, Wudlick received a scholarship to continue the program. He added upper extremity Functional Electrical Stimulation and RT-600 stepping FES.

When he first began the ABLE program, Wudlick required a chest strap in stabilize him in his power chair, used a sip-n-puff control to drive, and managed a long list of medications. With his continued involvement in intensive fitness, Wudlick is now able to sit independently for more than three minutes, is transitioning to a new joystick control on his wheelchair and has drastically cut back the amount of prescription medication he takes.

Outside his therapy, Wudlick is advocating for changes in insurance reimbursement. His efforts have led to other ABLE participants receiving financial help to continue their rehabilitation. Wudlick also  promotes Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute with legislators, corporate leaders and community organizations to raise awareness and funding for spinal cord research to benefit those with disabilities on a local and national level. Wudlick continues to advocate for Minnesota S.F. No. 111 The Jablonski/Rodreick Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Grant Program.

“Rob's attitude and personality continues to uplift his family and the ABLE staff,” said Dain Clausen, fitness specialist for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.  “He continues to make gains through hard work and his involvement in both the ABLE program and in the community. His perseverance and positive attitude have served as a positive example to many other clients.”

And, it’s no coincidence that with Wudlick’s efforts to help pave the way for insurance funding, there is now a five-month wait list for ABLE.

“His attitude and demeanor have inspired some people who have been injured for more than 35 years to make a lifestyle change,” said Clausen. “While Rob has not reached his ultimate goal yet, he recognizes the small gains and continues to inspire others to work harder each day and better themselves step by step.”



Robert Wudlick

Robert Wudlick is a 2013 Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Inspiration Award winner.