The Road to Recovery Close to Home

November 29, 2021

Connor Smith at the Renown Rehab Hospital

Meet Connor Smith

Life was hectic for Connor Smith. He had just finished at the top of his class at both the fire academy and paramedic school and was looking forward to starting work in northern Nevada. It was winter 2019, and he was ready to have some fun. The plan was to ride ATVs at Sand Mountain with his brother Cody, dad Lance and some friends, but a jump would change everything. Connor’s ATV took off but landed awkwardly, and he remembers immediately knowing he was paralyzed.

Connor’s mom, Dana Shugar, was at home when she received the upsetting call from Cody, who told her he had an accident. Connor was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center, the area’s only Level II Trauma Center.

After a seven-hour emergency surgery, Dana learned that Connor would live but only had a slight chance of walking again due to a spinal fracture. “The surgeon saved his life. It’s amazing how your life can change in a matter of seconds,” she said.

Once his condition stabilized, Connor moved to the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital and began physical rehabilitation. “Thank God for the people at rehab,” Dana said. “Dr. Pence, the therapists, nurses and all the employees were a wonderful support system, explaining everything and answering all our questions. The kindness they showed got me through.” Connor agrees, calling the Renown rehab team nothing short of amazing.

“At one point, I was considering going out-of-state for rehab, however, the care I was getting at Renown was great,” shares Connor. “And most importantly, having my friends and family there was vital for my recovery at that time.”

Dana agrees, “He has a very strong support system here with his family and friends. Keeping Connor in town was key to his recovery.”

While at the Rehabilitation Hospital, Connor felt the first movement in his legs, and it gave him hope and drive to keep working. “During rehab, I learned very quickly that I had to take the small victories, no matter what they were, and to not to get down on myself and to keep looking forward,” says Connor. He now has feeling in his legs, and his feet are ticklish again.

Connor continues to reach new milestones. Recently he built up his strength and walked on crutches at his friend’s wedding. He swims, stands, goes up and down stairs and drives. Connor is still improving and is determined to walk without crutches again, all with a good attitude and support from his family and friends.

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