Rob Summers willing to walk again

The day's heat lingered as Rob Summers walked toward his car parked outside the house he shared with three teammates in southeast Portland, Ore. He thought about his day: cardio workouts, a weightlifting session and a trip to his parents' house, where he updated his mom on his effort to join the starting rotation for the reigning national champion Oregon State Beavers baseball team.

As the top closer on his West Coast League summer team, Summers had kept his ERA low. His fastball was consistently hitting the mid 90s and his curveball stymied opposing batters. Summers, a Beaverton, Ore., native with close-cropped light blonde hair and clear blue eyes, had missed Oregon State's 2006 College World Series championship because of a recurring hip flexor injury. Now, almost a month later, the rising redshirt sophomore sensed the importance of his upcoming season.

Major league scouts already had talked with the 6-foot-1, 190-pound pitcher, who'd been drafted in the late rounds out of high school but had chosen to play at OSU. Summers believed he'd play in the big leagues someday -- that was the goal he'd written down each night for almost a decade. For now, he was 20 and in the best shape of his life.

He never imagined how his life would change in a few hours -- nor the impact he'd have on the world far beyond the baseball field.

It was almost midnight, the air still and quietly calm as Summers walked to his 1995 Ford Explorer, which was parked in the street parallel to the curb.

In the dark, he reached the Explorer and opened the back end. As he leaned in to retrieve his baseball bag, Summers heard a car engine. The sedan or minivan -- Oregon police still aren't sure -- sounded close. Too close. And moving too fast. Summers turned his head, briefly, and saw a pair of headlights speeding toward him.

"What do you want to do?" Rob's father, Mike, asked as he drove home from Rob's Little League season-ending banquet. The head coach had given out the usual awards -- Most Improved, Best Batting Average. Rob received the Best Mudball Maker award, a joking nod to his tendency to make dirtballs in the outfield rather than fielding hits. Rob was 9, and for possibly the first time that he could understand, he was embarrassed.

"If you want to play an instrument, fine, and if you want to be an actor, that's fine," Mike recalled telling Rob in the car. "But whatever you choose, you need to be the best at it. The absolute best."

Rob fiddled with his mitt and thought for a few seconds before answering. He really liked soccer and baseball. And he enjoyed being part of a team with his friends.

"I want to play baseball," Rob said.

The next season, he led his Murrayhill Little League team to a state championship. Before Mike could remind him to study his swings or take ground balls, Rob went to the first day of practice and worked until he bloodied his hands. In their backyard, Mike threw Wiffle Balls while Rob held a broomstick as a bat, developing hand-eye coordination. Rob began focusing on a singular goal: to play professional baseball. His best friend, Darwin Barney, lived a few blocks away and the two spent hours practicing. They invented their own catch-and-field game, which they called "yellowball," playing until darkness set in on their suburban street.

"There's no one that worked harder than he did, ever," Barney said. "I was always trying to keep up with him."

At 10, Rob began a new habit. He bought a five-ring binder and made subsections -- daily, weekly, monthly, six-month and annual -- and wrote down his goals. Before going to sleep each night, he examined what he'd written that morning. Now on his sixth notebook, he's never shown them to anyone -- not his parents, nor his girlfriend, Rachael O'Brien, whom he lives with. They are his demons to wrestle, his triumphs to celebrate. If he's accomplished what he set out for that day, he goes to sleep. Otherwise, he revises his goals, focusing on how he might make better use of the next day.

Those written motivations transformed him from a mudball maker to a high school state baseball champion with a 3.8 GPA who earned an athletic scholarship to Oregon State, playing alongside future major leaguers Barney, Cole Gillespie and Jacoby Ellsbury. A fitness fanatic, Summers spent hours in the weight room and measured his body fat each week (close to 5 percent at the time of his accident). "Robbie was not only talented, but he had an extreme determination and competitiveness," Oregon State head coach Pat Casey said. "Sometimes it's easy to find guys who are competitive and do all the things right but they're not talented, or vice versa. Robbie was a combination of both."

His goals drove him, gave him a sense of purpose.

In the past five years, they have kept him alive.

A neighbor discovered Rob lying on the ground next to the Explorer and called 911. He'd fallen in and out of consciousness during the night. He remembered trying to reach for his nearby cell phone, but his arms wouldn't work. His left ankle had snapped open after being hit by the speeding vehicle, leaving a hole that paramedics mistook for a bullet wound. They rushed him to Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland, the closest hospital with a trauma care unit specializing in gunshot injuries.

The phone rang at Jean and Mike Summers' house at 5:30 a.m. The caller told Jean that Rob had been shot and was en route to the hospital. Jean called her sister and asked her to watch Michael, their younger son. Jean and Mike sped toward Good Samaritan, speculating during the drive that perhaps Rob had been shot in a robbery or a mugging.

At the hospital, ER doctors examined Rob and realized he hadn't been shot. He'd broken his C-6 vertebra. Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, the hospital specializing in spinal cord trauma, was 30 minutes across town, so paramedics rushed Rob back to the ambulance.

With accidents involving the spinal cord, every second is critical. The longer an injury goes untreated, the higher the risk of permanent damage. Rob's neurosurgeon told him several weeks after the hit-and-run that if the driver (who remains unknown -- the case is still open in Oregon) had called paramedics immediately, Rob would've had a strong chance at a full recovery.

Rob awoke the next morning, his eyes darting back and forth around his ICU room. The nurse looked at him, increased his morphine and he passed out. Surgeons later operated on his spinal cord and ankle. He woke up again the next day. When he tried to move, nothing happened. He looked toward his parents, wondering why he couldn't lift his legs or feel his wrists.

The doctor walked in and told Rob and his family that Rob was paralyzed from the neck down. He would never stand or walk again or regain the use of his bowels. He probably would be able to move only his head and neck for the rest of his life. The gregarious, determined pro baseball hopeful was now a 20-year-old quadriplegic.

Rob's parents, aunts and uncles, who'd arrived in shifts in the days after the accident, stood listening in silence.

Finally, Rob spoke.

"Obviously you don't know me very well," he said, looking at his doctor.

"I'm going to get up and walk again. I'm going to do this."

Rob stayed in the hospital for several weeks and resisted help. When meals were served, he'd try to position the fork next to his shoulder and crane his neck toward the utensil, bobbing his head like a baby bird. "If I got two bites in, that was lucky, and I always had food all over myself," he said. He dropped from 190 pounds to 160 in two weeks.

After leaving the hospital, he transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon in Portland. Each day began at 7 a.m. After breakfast, he spent six or seven hours in physical therapy. Three weeks after arriving, he felt his first sensation: pain in his ankle. A week later, he regained minimal feeling in his shins. Then his calves. He couldn't move the body parts, but he began to feel them.

Rob didn't wallow in self-pity or depression and said he never felt the need to talk to a counselor or psychologist.

"He had a positive attitude from day one," Jean said. "Even when he couldn't move, he always said, 'This is a road bump and I don't care what it takes, I'm going to get to the other side.'"

He viewed his paralysis as a sports challenge, tackling it with the same drive he had for baseball. "If I knew how the mechanics of that body part worked in baseball, then I felt like I could break it down into small movements in the same way in therapy," Rob said.

After five weeks at the Rehab Institute, Rob had regained feeling in most of his body. He had minimal movement in his upper right side, but his left side remained still. Rob moved to Project Walk, a physical therapy program then based out of Portland (now located in Carlsbad, Calif.) for spinal cord injury patients that focuses on activity-based recovery. His therapist, J.J. Fowler, wanted Rob to work on regaining the use of his hands. Rob began working with Theraputty, trying to knead the material similar to the children's toy Play-Doh.

Next, Fowler focused on Rob's core and upper body. Rob attempted pull-ups and spent hours sitting against a wall, falling down and forcing himself to sit back up. Slowly, his upper body regained muscle and strength. Rob thought about the different workouts he once loved: squats, weightlifting and lunges. He'd visualize moving his body through each exercise, hoping that the mental workout would help reconnect his brain with his muscles.

He moved back in with his parents and established a routine. He'd spend mornings at Project Walk, come home for lunch and then head to his father's office in the afternoons. Friends suggested that the Summers remodel their house to make things easier for Rob, but Mike refused, telling them, "It's better to make it harder, not easier, because that's how you get stronger." Rob continued to write down his goals each night. His long-term goal, though, had shifted. Instead of playing professional baseball, he just wanted to walk onto the field again.

Rob's parents set up his bedroom in the basement. Each night, Mike or Jean would walk down from their third-floor bedroom to check on Rob every two hours. He and Michael watched movies, played video games and learned cribbage. Rob had a girlfriend at the time of the accident; she visited him once in the hospital and they broke up soon afterward. Friends came by during the week, pushing Rob outside in his wheelchair during "curb cuts" along the street.

After several months, Rob was able to complete a standing push-up against the wall, the first documented quadriplegic ever to do so. Still, his lower body remained motionless, and after a year of therapy he struggled to see improvement. He and his parents spent hours doing online research and making calls each day, searching the world for rehabilitation options or surgical procedures that might help.

One evening, Mike told Rob a story he'd read about a woman trapped inside a box for a year who could never walk again because of how much her leg muscles atrophied. Mike told him that the human body is made to be moved and that the best thing for the body is to just keep it moving. If Rob couldn't actually move it, he should think about moving it.

Rob sat before his stove, opening a barbecue recipe book that Jean had sent him. Barbecuing was their family tradition. Every Sunday evening when Rob and Michael were young, Mike would light up the grill for dinner. Now Rob, living alone in a 1,100-square-foot apartment in Louisville, Ky., had started grilling.

He'd arrived in Louisville several months earlier after a chance meeting in Houston. He and his parents had flown to a Neuro Recovery Network training sponsored in part by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

There, they met Dr. Susan Harkema, rehabilitation research director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville and director of research at the Frazier Rehab Institute. Harkema, who also serves as the director of the Neuro Recovery Network, had spent the past 15 years studying the neural mechanisms responsible for human locomotion and the body's ability to recover after neurologic injury.

Along with 10 other scientists from around the country, including Dr. Reggie Edgerton out of UCLA (one of the study's initial founders), Harkema was researching a way for spinal cord injury patients to regain movement at or below the point of injury. Her team ran multiple studies, including one that would potentially focus on epidural stimulation. Eventually, they'd need a test patient who had to meet a long list of prerequisites, including having undergone intensive locomotor training.

Harkema spoke to Rob and his parents during a session break. "Right away, I could tell that he was a highly motivated young man and that he and his family had done their homework, trying to find all the opportunities to move his recovery as far forward as possible," she said.

She told them about her team's studies and asked Rob if he'd like to visit the institute. "How soon can we come?" Rob recalled saying. Two weeks later, he and Mike were in Louisville.

As he began the Louisville rehab program, Rob took comfort in the barbecue routines that reminded him of home. Once he finished cooking, he'd set the table for one, complete with side dishes and a glass of wine. He'd snap a photo and text it to his father for review, their weekly tradition.

The cooking sessions helped fend off the loneliness of a 21-year-old paralyzed man living by himself in an unfamiliar place. "[My friends are] graduating college, getting jobs lined up, starting to make money and have new lives and I'm sitting here where my big exciting plan for next week is whether I'm going to barbecue myself chicken, steak or pork," Rob said. "It was tough to see them go off and continue their lives and have me sitting back feeling like I was left behind."

On weeknights, he'd go to a nearby convention center hotel lobby to sit at the bar and talk with anyone who felt like chatting. He worried he'd never have a girlfriend again.

He thought about abandoning the Louisville program, moving back to the Portland area and finding a job. But he'd have to finish his education -- he hadn't graduated from OSU yet -- and real estate, the backup career he'd planned for in case baseball didn't work out, was no longer an option. The Portland rehabilitation facility cost nearly $100 an hour, but wasn't covered by his insurance. His mother already had extended her career several years after she'd planned to retire to help pay Rob's medical bills.

So he stayed in Louisville. His newest short-term goal was to qualify for Harkema's epidural stimulation study. If approved, surgeons would implant an electrode on the dura of his spinal cord and a stimulator under the skin in his lower back, designed to send electrical pulses to compensate for the missing brain signals when initiating movement. While patients with partial paralysis had tried epidural stimulation with mixed results, Rob would be the first immobile person to use the experimental mechanism with the purpose of standing or walking.

One afternoon, Rob received a call from John Jefferson, then the second-year head coach of the baseball team at St. Xavier High School in Louisville. Jefferson had heard about Rob and wondered if he'd like to share his experiences with Jefferson's team.

Rob hadn't watched baseball since his accident. A lifelong New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners fan, he wouldn't turn sports on the TV because he feared he might catch a glimpse of MLB highlights. He didn't read about baseball online or in newspapers.

"Based on what I was told in talking to scouts, I truly believed I would've been at that pro level, especially seeing the guys I played with who are there," Rob said. "The hardest part was looking at them and being like, 'Shoulda, woulda, coulda.' So I wouldn't put myself in that situation."

Still, Rob said he'd speak to the team. Jefferson was so impressed afterward that he asked Rob if he'd like to work as an unofficial coach for the varsity during the fall season. Rob agreed. He'd learned to drive his SUV with hand controls in the months after his accident.

At St. Xavier's practice, Rob sat in his chair by the mound and worked on mechanics with the team's pitchers. One of the pitchers he coached, Matt Spaulding, was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox in 2011. Jefferson offered Rob a full-time job, but Rob couldn't commit to the schedule because of his intense rehabilitation. Still, he continued to work with the team through the fall, sometimes arriving at practice after six straight hours of therapy.

"If Rob was tired or bothered, he never showed it," Jefferson said. "You could see the passion he has for the game … that he wanted to be around baseball so badly."

Six days a week at the Frazier Institute, Rob went through daily doubles, twice-daily workouts designed to strengthen his body as much as possible. When he finally regained the levels of sensation and movement necessary for participation, the study ran into several hurdles. Rob's surgery would have to be postponed for a year, possibly longer.

Those were his lowest days. On some mornings, Rob wouldn't get out of bed until noon. But then he'd think about his goals and where he wanted to be in five years, which wasn't sitting in his chair. So he'd set his alarm for 6 a.m. and fill another page of his notebook.

Soon after Rob learned of the study setbacks, Mike called. Michael had been horsing around during his afternoon high school soccer practice when a teammate put him into a headlock and threw him onto the ground. As they fell, "I felt a little crack and my neck just snapped," Michael said. He stood up, dizzy, and tried to move before collapsing.

Because of Rob's spinal cord injury, Michael knew that he shouldn't move. He told team trainers to find a backboard and slide him onto it before he went to the hospital. He'd broken his neck at C-2, a 75 percent fracture. Doctors said later that if Michael had moved, his body might have stopped all brain function.

"When my coach called my mom, he broke down crying, because he knew what had happened to my brother and he didn't want my parents to go through that again -- to have two kids paralyzed," Michael said.

Michael stayed at home on bed rest and wore a halo for nine weeks. The 10th week after his accident, he played basketball, even though doctors had told him he'd probably never play sports again. He's now a sophomore goalie for the men's soccer team at Pacific University in Oregon and said that of the many lessons he's learned from his brother, one of the most important is goal-setting. Instead of a notebook, Michael writes his goals on notes he sticks by his bathroom mirror each week.

"His drive just separates him from other people -- I've never met anyone so determined," Michael said of his older brother.

Eight lights hang in a circle above Rob's head. Therapist Matt Green sits across from him in a folding chair. A dozen doctors and therapists stand nearby, some measuring statistics at the computer, others waiting to help. The temperature inside the Frasier Institute lab is cool despite the hot July day. The room smells faintly of antiseptic.

Harkema sits in a rolling chair and watches the computer monitor as bright colors jump across the screen's grid, representing Rob's neural activity. Rob sits in a chair wearing a blue shirt and athletic shorts and looks more robotic than human because of the 16 neuron-measuring sensors attached to his body.

"Counting down: 3-2-1," Rob says. Shakily and with assistance, he stands, holding on to handlebars as Green supports his legs and several other therapists fasten a harness around his waist. Seconds pass and Green lets go, scooting his chair backward.

"Independent," Rob says, and the stopwatch begins.

His legs quiver as the seconds tick by. He leans his entire body to the left, announcing each move as he proceeds -- "shifting left" -- before leaning back to the right -- "shifting right." He stares straight ahead. He does not smile. Later, Rob will say that while he's standing, he focuses on each muscle, envisioning the fibers and neurons working together again.

His legs shake more violently, wobbling like a grazed bowling pin that's seconds away from toppling over. After almost two minutes, he calls out, "Sitting." Green scoots forward in his chair to hold on to Rob as he lowers himself.

"That was as strong and as uniform as I've seen you," Harkema says. Her smile is broad.

Rob rests for several minutes and listens as Harkema speaks with one of the technicians. Jean stands nearby typing text messages. Mike watches silently. They are both lean and fit; Jean stands close to 5-foot-10, and Mike is 6-2. Michael, at 6-5, is the tallest in the family. Both parents were multisport athletes in high school.

"Ready to go again?" one of the technicians asks. Rob nods.

The process is repeated. This time, his legs are shakier. He tries to lean forward and backward but his attempt is too quick and he almost falls. Soon, the shaking spreads up his entire body until he is convulsing as though he's having a seizure. Still, he stares forward, pushing against his body's violent resistance.

After another break, Rob asks Harkema if he can try again.

"A lot of times, we have to be the ones to say, 'We're going to stop now,' because he wants to keep pushing himself," Harkema says.

Rob already has grown stronger since the world first watched him stand, in what Popular Mechanics Magazine voted the 2011 Breakthrough of the Year in Medicine. On May 20, the medical journal The Lancet published Harkema's team's study; simultaneously, the University of Louisville and The Lancet released a video clip of Rob standing independently -- the first quadriplegic ever to do so.

Within 24 hours, Rob received close to 2,000 mentions on Twitter. Katie Couric called -- her subsequent interview with Rob, including the video clip of him standing, recorded 16.4 million viewers. Harkema's team received thousands of messages from people living with paralysis, some asking and others begging to be the next candidate in her studies. Rob had a Facebook account that he rarely used. After receiving multiple friend requests from people wondering if he was the same Rob Summers they'd read about and seen on TV, he changed his profile photo from an outdated picture of him standing with friends to an image of him sitting in his wheelchair, smiling. Messages covered his Facebook wall: "Your story has been such an inspiration, especially to all of us who have suffered from a spinal cord injury." … "You defiantly are an inspiration. ive actually been in contact with Louisville and im trying to get accepted to do the same thing you did!"

But the world didn't realize that Rob had first stood more than a year earlier. After receiving final approval from the FDA, Rob was surgically implanted with the stimulator device on Dec. 7, 2009. His surgery lasted almost seven hours. He was placed on bed rest for two weeks.

On Dec. 21, 2009, Rob stood on a treadmill wearing a harness. Doctors turned on the stimulator for the first time, but nothing happened. The next day produced the same results. On Dec. 23, as Rob stood in his harness again, doctors started the simulator and set the harness to 100 percent support. They gradually turned the support level down until it read 0. And then, years before any of the researchers had anticipated, Rob continued to stand -- completely on his own -- for close to a minute.

As the doctors and therapists celebrated and hugged one another, Rob refused to let his emotions take hold. He wanted to try again. "That was game time," Rob recalled. But when he returned to his apartment that night, he processed what had happened. Three-and-a-half years, thousands of hours of therapy and three goal-filled notebooks later, he had stood voluntarily. "I thought to myself, 'OK, this is a really big deal,'" Rob said. "And I can only imagine what the future brings."

Rob sat in front of five computer monitors on his office desk inside his West Hollywood, Calif., apartment one morning this past July. A self-taught trader, he wakes up around 4 a.m. Pacific Time, spending several hours trading commodities and currency on foreign markets. He keeps his goal notebooks under his desk and also has a wipe board where he sometimes writes them down. His office walls are empty except for a framed quote from the movie "Wall Street": "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good."

The quote is a gift from Rachael. They watched both "Wall Street" movies together last year and afterward, Rob explained how he felt Gordon Gekko's message carried beyond finance. "Playing sports, I didn't take my body for granted because I took very good care of it, but I also did [take it for granted] because I figured that my body would always be there tomorrow," Rob said. "After all of this, I've learned that when you have greed for those things, it spurs you to the next level … If I'm not working harder than everyone else out there, then I've let myself down."

Rob's office is also his at-home rehab center. His experimental standing apparatus is set up across from his desk. He spends most afternoons practicing standing as well as smaller movements like wiggling his left toes, raising his right ankle -- repeating as many times as he can. He keeps the stimulator on for up to 2½ hours a day. Leaning against the opposite wall is his next goal: a walker.

Before his accident, Rob's thighs each measured 26 inches around. They dropped to 16 inches during the following year. Today, they're back up to 23 inches.

With his strong physique, people often look at Rob and assume he can use his legs. He tells the story of boarding a flight when the agent scanning boarding passes looked at him and asked, "Can you just walk the rest of the way down to the plane?" He laughed and shook his head before explaining that wasn't possible, yet. On another flight, the airline forgot to bring his wheelchair to the plane after landing. Rob didn't protest; instead he rolled out of his seat and onto the floor and pushed toward the plane's exit door, dragging his legs behind him.

Since May 20, his daily routine also involves an hour or two responding to calls and emails he receives from other people who are paralyzed. He mentors several teens and young adults with paralysis and travels nationwide for speaking engagements. He is in talks to start his own nonprofit, the Rob Summers Fund, in conjunction with the Reeve Foundation. They have told Rob that they envision him as a new face for their organization.

Rob travels back to Louisville every few months for Harkema's team to check on his progress. The researchers have now implanted a second person with the stimulator, a young man of similar age and injury level as Rob. The results, thus far, are equally promising. The man, whose identity has not been publicly revealed yet, also can move his legs voluntarily and stand independently.

According to a study initiated by the Reeve Foundation, close to 1 in 50 people in the United States lives with paralysis -- approximately 6 million people. While Harkema's findings might not help everyone -- Harkema cautions against viewing Rob's progress as a "cure-all" -- she and Rob believe it could change lives.

"Paralysis is not just about movement," Harkema said. "Everything in your life is harder. You can't go outside because you can't regulate your temperature. You can't go to a restaurant because you can't go to the bathroom. It takes you two to three hours to get up and out of your house … so anything that alleviates some of those complications makes people's lives so much better. Certainly from our perspective, investing in this to move it forward would make a huge impact on so many people. What we learned through this is that there are strategies we can use … it's not a cure, but it can improve function and change the quality of life."

Rob met Rachael, an actress and screenwriter, two years ago when a film crew traveled to Louisville to document his surgery. She was one of the producers. During the group's first night at dinner, "we were the only people talking to each other," Rachael said. "I had never met anyone so incredible, so I didn't even really care about the wheelchair."

The two began long-distance dating before Rob moved to Los Angeles in January 2010, when they moved into their apartment building in West Hollywood. "The one thing he can't do in our building is laundry, but I'm sure he loves that," Rachael said, laughing. The couple often jokes together and at least one night a week is a designated date night. She has helped Rob regain his confidence; not the arrogant swagger of a star athlete, but the comfortable self-assurance of a 25-year-old man.

Rob now watches baseball regularly. During the Major League Baseball season, he checks the box scores before calling Mike to discuss his former teammates. When the Cubs traveled to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers this past summer, Rob went to all three games to watch Barney work as Chicago's starting second baseman. When a batter steps to the plate, Rob still thinks like a pitcher, analyzing the batter and his stance, imagining what pitch he'd throw.

His ultimate goal is still to walk onto a baseball field again and he, his family and friends believe he will. When he does, he might see a familiar face behind the plate. "I'd love to be the guy who catches that first pitch he throws when he's standing on that mound," said Casey, the Oregon State coach. "It'd be an honor."

On Nov. 30, at the Reeve Foundation's annual Magical Evening gala in New York City, Rob achieved another goal. As one of the keynote speakers for the celebrity-filled crowd, which included paralyzed former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, Rob stood on stage next to Harkema and Edgerton. Rob used only a walker for support. The crowd rose to its feet, with applause and cheers filling the room. He talked about his five-year journey from major league hopeful to quadriplegic to the man standing before them. By night's end, the foundation had raised close to $3 million, a record that organizers said they reached in large part because of the power and promise behind that moment.

Perhaps that explains Rob's answer when asked whether he'd like to rewind five years and never walk out to his car that night.

"If you had asked me three to six months post-accident, I'd absolutely stay inside," Rob said. "But looking at it now, I wouldn't change it at all. I've been given an opportunity that very few people in this world are given -- to help people -- and that's an incredible feeling. There are so many people in [wheel]chairs who feel like they can't go out in public and they're not enjoying life as they should. They need to live life as it's meant to be lived, to get back to what they love to do."

Anna Katherine Clemmons is a reporter for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.