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From Pediatric Patient to Resident Physician - Hank Shipman, MD

As an accomplished ski racer at Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake City with a dream of making the U.S. National Ski Team, Hank Shipman was skilled on factoring visibility, snow conditions, and the best way to use on
his skis.

Nothing was left to chance.

With his training and racing, Hank liked to control as many factors in his life as he could.

But one thing was out of his control: a driver passing a semi on a two-lane highway near Mount Hood, Oregon, crashed head-on into the school van carrying Hank and his Rowmark teammates.

His teammates, many with broken limbs, were able to get out of the van.
For Hank, it was a long 47 minutes before he was finally freed from the
wreckage thanks to a jaws of life hydraulic rescue tool. Hank was severely
injured, with a spinal fracture to his neck at levels C2-C6, spinal cord damage at C4, a broken scapula, a lacerated skull, brain trauma, and compound fracture to his femur.

Hank was life-flighted to Portland for emergency operations to stabilize the femur and cervical spine. Ten days later, he was transported to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Hank's injury resulted in incomplete paralysis. He had loss of motor function on the left side of his body and sensory impairment on the right side. He first started to regain functional movement on the left side of his body about three weeks after the accident.

Hank would spend the next three months receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy at Primary Children's Hospital.

Hank credits his background as an athlete with preparing him for the intense rehabilitation process ahead.

"I always viewed my injuries as a setback I would be able to adapt to," Hank said. "My care at Primary Children's Hospital was exceptional. I was a stubborn, motivated patient. My care team didn't coddle me. They pushed me and reminded me of the progress I was making each day. They harnessed my competitive spirit."

Early on in his rehab, Hank wanted to believe the accident happened for a reason.

But his deepest fear was that it did not.

"I wanted to give the accident meaning by using my experience to help others in similar situations,” Hank said, “It let me take control of the narrative by controlling how I responded." Not surprisingly, Hank found the sensation of paralysis to be very lonely and isolating.

"I wanted to be there to support others in this spot, knowing I could relate to patients on that level," Hank said.

As his recovery continued, Hank became frustrated by how little is known about spinal cord injuries.

Hank's questions led him to the University of Michigan, which offered an undergraduate degree in Human Movement Science, a program with an emphasis on motor control, biomechanics, and exercise physiology.

After graduating, Hank was accepted into the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah, where many of the faculty treated him after his injury.

Today, Hank is in his second year of residency in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

As Hank says, "We can't control what happens to us. but we can control how we respond."

Hank continues to live that every day.