Determined paralyzed rower Nick Malafronte competes to regain use of his limbs and confidence...
Nick Malafronte was just 19 when he was paralyzed in a fall into a shallow swimming hole while working at a summer camp in his hometown of Abington. After hitting his head on the sandy bottom, he lay motionless face-down in the water until he was pulled out by lifeguards. Conscious but unable to move, he was med-flighted to Massachusetts General Hospital.
An accomplished high school athlete who had just completed his freshman year at Westfield State University, he was given a grim prognosis by doctors, who told him he would never walk again and would have very limited use of his arms.
But after meeting other quadriplegics and paraplegics who defied their own odds through intense rehabilitation and made progress in their recovery, Nick decided he would take control of his own fate and do whatever he had to do to improve.
He set a goal for himself and told his tearful mom, Diane, that summer: “It’s going to be OK, Mom. I will walk again.”
That determination is what gets him through each day since he was seriously injured in July 2011. And it’s what spurred the quadriplegic to compete in the adaptive division of this year’s Charles River All Star Has-Beens Sprints World Indoor Rowing Championships at Boston University.
Today, Nick — who can work a stylus for his phone and iPad with good control, feed himself, move his arms up, down, and side to side, and balance in his chair — still has that goal, but he’s working on other targets on a path to get there. Those small accomplishments he has made take a great deal of time, he said.
“It’s sometimes frustrating how slow the progress is. You don’t see results day by day, or even week by week,” Nick said. “Progress is measured month by month, and through the little things I do at home, like balance in my chair, feed myself without my arms getting as tired — basic stuff” that others take for granted.
“Nick can use his arms even though the doctor said he wouldn’t be able to even move them,” said Diane. “That shows you where hard work and determination get you.”