Local honored for efforts in paralysis research

Courtesy of the Bridgmans
The Bridgman family is set to receive the Spirit of Courage Award.

Giving up is not in Chris Bridgman’s character.

“I’ve always considered myself a fighter,” said the Los Altos native.

Bridgman is in the fight of his life, battling through a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Seven years since his fateful dirt bike accident in 2010, Bridgman has fought to achieve relative normalcy in his life while relentlessly pursuing medical advances. He remains eternally optimistic.

“Now is the time to have real hope,” Bridgman’s wife, Jennifer, told the Town Crier recently. “His (goal) is that someday he’ll walk again.”

Such perseverance has not gone unnoticed. Bridgman and his family are scheduled to receive the Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation gala, “A Magical Evening,” Nov. 16 in New York City.

To help navigate the short-term realities and long-term challenges of paralysis, the Bridgman family turned to the Reeve Foundation, tapping into its resources and services. They also learned about recent breakthroughs in spinal cord research.

The Bridgmans have raised $70,000 to speed the development of treatments for spinal cord injury and give hope to other families impacted by paralysis.

The Spirit of Courage Award the Bridgmans will receive recognizes those who challenge their limits and push toward new frontiers.

“It’s a big honor for us,” Jennifer said. “We’re honored and humbled.”

Bridgman is currently participating in a groundbreaking project known as The Big Idea – epidural stimulation of affected areas that has activated in some patients previously nonfunctioning parts of the body.

“This is the most exciting thing to come along,” he said.

Along with treatments from the stimulator, Bridgman must work with trainers to rebuild the muscle in his leg.

“I’ve had really bad atrophy,” he said. “It’s basically skin and bone.”

Despite the debilitating injury, the Bridgmans live their lives as normally as could be expected.

“As time goes on, we’ve felt like we’re a completely normal family,” Jennifer said. “When people meet him and see him as a dad, they’re touched by his positivity.”

A lifelong fitness devotee, Bridgman continues his upper-body workouts and has some movement in his left leg. He works at a desk as a mortgage loan officer, so the injury does not impact his career.

“I can do most things in my wheelchair,” he said.

According to Bridgman’s mother, Kathy, “from the moment Chris found out about his paralysis, he has been so positive and, although he has his dark days of horrible nerve pain, he has lived each day and been grateful for his beautiful wife and three darling boys who don’t see his handicap. Everyone who is fortunate to be in his life sees his positive attitude and is confident that he will walk again. He’s the perfect recipient for the Reeve Spirit of Courage.”

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