Man paralyzed in accident learns how to walk again, climbs mountain

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 3:42 AM EDT
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SALT LAKE CITY (KSTU) - After an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, a Utah college student relearned how to walk and climbed the tallest peak in Oregon.

When Vishal Shukla was 23, he was in a bodysurfing accident in California, where a spinal cord injury paralyzed most of his body. After surgery, he got some devastating news: he was not expected to be able to walk again.

“It’s something that a 23-year-old kid never wants to hear. The exact words were ‘We do not think you’ll walk,’” he said.

But fast forward 14 months and Shukla, a student at Southern Utah University, is not just walking but climbing mountains. After rigorous training – physically and mentally – he says his recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

“I can use my hands. I can use my arms. I can move around, but my paralysis still affects me to a pretty considerable degree. For example, my triceps are still pretty paralyzed. I can’t do a push-up. My grip strength is only a third of what it used to be,” he said.

Still, Shukla summited Mount Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, last Wednesday – something not many people can accomplish, let alone people once paralyzed in all four limbs.

“So, it was definitely a pretty strenuous climb. But I have absolutely nothing but sheer gratitude for my friends and the crew that we had up there. Honestly, if it wasn’t for them, there’s no way I would have made it up that mountain,” he said.

Shukla credits his progress to the teams at Intermountain Health in Murray, Utah, and physical therapists at Neuroworx in Sandy, Utah. He says he went from using a wheelchair to a walker to forearm crutches to a leg brace.

“Fortunately, just thanks to the entire team – the physiotherapists, the occupational therapists and doctors – everyone did such an amazing job,” he said. “Now, I’m at the point where my walking gait’s pretty normal.”

Shukla also turned his journey into a way to give back to one of the places that helped him recover. He decided to fundraise for families at Neuroworx who might not be able to afford the kind of care they need.

“One of the first thoughts I feel like most people have is that you just don’t want anyone else to go through such a similar experience,” he said. “That money will cover continued rehab sessions that other people’s insurance will unfortunately no longer cover.”

Donations to Shukla’s cause can be made on his GoFundMe page.