Patient uses physical therapy to overcome paraplegia, stand up with his bride during wedding ceremony

David Kellam works hard in physical therapy to stand at his wedding.


Sabrina Childress
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ORLANDO, Fla. (September 4, 2013) — David Kellam is spending his summer in physical therapy, to learn to stand with his bride at their wedding on September 7. The new beginning is a special time for them to “stand strong together,” said Kellam. The 24-year-old Orlando resident is recovering from a 2010 motorcycle crash that caused a spinal cord injury that led to paraplegia. Though life changing, the incident hasn’t stopped David from moving forward and living life without limitations. 

“I look at life differently,” said Kellam. “I love every day. I am grateful to be alive. There are some people who have it harder than me. I try not to complain. I’ve got to keep going.”

Kellam has been working hard daily — completing home exercises including stretching, pull-ups, dips, standing in his standing frame; and working hard weekly — participating in physical therapy sessions at the Orlando Health Rehabilitation Institute. Physical therapy sessions include exercises to improve hip flexibility, upper body strength and standing balance with a walker. The sessions also include training for his fiancée and best man to assist with any support needed during the wedding ceremony.

David’s outlook was positive from the beginning, recalls one of his physical therapists, Mariel Repetto, PT, CBIS, Rehabilitation Institute.

“I remember our first session,” said Repetto. “He had a gigantic smile on his face. He said, ‘What do I need to learn to get out of here.’ He knows what he wants and works hard to achieve it. His positive attitude has helped him accomplish the goals he sets for himself. He didn’t let his injury interfere with his life.”

Kellam’s positive spirit has also been critical in regaining his independence in other areas of his life as well. Within a year and a half, he had met many goals.

“Initially he wasn’t happy with his discharge plan to live at home with his parents,” Repetto said. “He set a goal to move in to his own place, and he did it. He began driving, started a job, and went back to college. Slowly but surely he returned back into his life. He had the family support but he didn’t want to rely on it. He wanted to be as independent as he was before the accident.”

Kellam adds to his positive energy the drive, dedication and determination he used in high school and college football practices to meet his wedding day goal. The hours spent doing the work can be grueling, but David perseveres. It is well worth the gift for his future wife.

“She’s amazing,” Kellam said. “That just about sums it up.”

Kellam’s positive approach to life, along with support from his fiancée, family and friends, has helped him not only in meeting physical therapy goals but also with other achievements.

“I was truly blessed to meet some wonderful people – people I am still friends with today,” said David. For example, a new friend gave him hand controls needed to adapt his car. Another friend paid for the installation and the special driving course. Many others have played key roles in Kellam’s return to independent living.

Kellam has also played a part in helping others.

“He comes to our support group and lends good advice to our new patients who are facing the emotions of a new diagnosis,” said Amanda Middeke, OTR/L, ATP, occupational therapist, Rehabilitation Institute. “He sets an example to them as someone who has come out of it on the other side and has still met his life goals and is living life.”

Currently he is completing a business management degree and looks forward to a career in technology. David would also like to continue his involvement with sports, including participation in future Paralympic Games.

Kellam is a Winter Park High School graduate, where he earned a football scholarship at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia. He played at Concord from 2007 to 2010.

STORY UPDATE: David Kellam reached his goal to stand with his bride during their wedding ceremony in September.