Surfer’s myelopathy took away his ability to walk. 3 years later, he’s back on his feet

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pearl City High School’s marching band has one of its key musicians back on the field. Trombonist David Togami oversees the brass section.

“I’m kinda like the big brother to the low brass section, but I also help with the high brass section as well,” he said.

It’s taken a lot of grit and determination for the 17-year-old to rejoin the band. In 2019, he suffered from a rare spinal cord injury called surfer’s myelopathy. It paralyzed his legs.

“I was really grateful to have a lot of people come and see me and keep my spirits up. But after a while it hit me. I was like, ‘I might not be able to walk ever again,’” he said.

He committed everything he had to his physical therapy. He made big strides in his recovery when REHAB Hospital of the Pacific’s physical therapist Leigha Stafford put him on a special exercise bike called the RT300 FES, that uses electrodes to trigger muscle movement.

“It stimulates the peripheral nerves to cause contractions in the muscles when people such as David may not be able to voluntarily contract their muscles,” she said.

“I just really saw the most recovery out of using that machine,” David said.

He put in two years of hard work, and went from being in a wheelchair to being able to walk again. He was a motivated patient.

“It’s not going to really help me staying sad, so I should probably work as hard as I can,” he said.

Stafford said the bike isn’t appropriate for every paralysis patient. But for those who can use it, it can speed up recovery.

“Surfer’s myelopathy is a big spectrum. We can have people that unfortunately are wheelchair bound, but also have amazing progress like David,” she said.

He believes the bike made all the difference.

“They can increase the resistance and decrease the resistance. At this point they put it at super high resistance. It gets super hard,” he said.

David credits his positive attitude to his parents. He’s happy to be back in the marching band and very thankful to be back on his feet.

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