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BOISE -- A Kuna high school student is making huge strides in his unrelenting recovery.

Boone Bartlome suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury on November 8.

He was carried off the field and unable to move. But in the six months since then, he has progressed more than expected.

REGAINING MUSCLE STRENGTH


After a full day as a Kuna High junior, Bartlome goes to hours of therapy sessions at Elks Rehab System.

First, he is in occupational therapy where he works on his upper body strength.

Therapist Kevin D'Agostino helps him get through exercise after exercise, helping his arms and hands return to the movements they are used to.

It's difficult for the 16-year-old. Even opening his fingers requires electrical stimulation.

It's just a little tingly, just feel tingly in your muscles up here, said Bartlome.

D'Agostino explains how the devices are helping Boone get better.

What this does is help re-teach Boone's brain and muscles how to communicate essentially, said D'Agostino.

The communication is getting better. Boone is re-learning to pick up an item, lift it, then drop it.

Since we've started he's made tremendous gains with his overall grasp and grip strength, said D'Agostino.

WORKING ON WALKING

Down the hall, during his physical therapy session, Boone gets strapped in to walk on a treadmill.

He's held up so that he can practice walking without the full weight of his body.

Boone says every step is a struggle.

It's like for a baby you're figuring it out for the first time, but you don't really know what you're doing, said Bartlome. It's just frustrating now because I know what I should be doing, and I just can't do it.

But slowly, he's getting better at walking. With his therapist's help, Boone walked a quarter mile in complete concentration, suffering through every step.

His physical therapist, Joe Wegley, says Boone has improved quickly in a short period of time.

So he's really made a lot of progress in the freedom of movement that he has, said Wegley. He moves a lot more easily, and he's got a lot more strength and stability when he stands.

BOONE'S MOTIVATION

It's an unimaginable challenge for a boy born an athlete. Boone was a track star, a king of the rodeo, and a natural at football.

It was on that field, in a freak play, that Boone's neck snapped back and he suddenly couldn't move.

As he was carried off, both teams knelt and prayed. Prayers that Boone heard and prayers that push him harder.

It's just amazing to think that people think of me every day and pray about me, said Bartlome. I really appreciate that, and I'm coming along.

Now, less than six months after the accident, he's walking with canes and doing far better than anyone could have expected.

He's even walking backwards, depending less on devices and more on his own strength.

His therapist says it's tiring for Boone, since he's fighting both his muscles and his mind.

When the system gets disrupted, it's like an orchestra and no one knows how to play together so some things are turned on that shouldn't be and others aren't turning on, said Wegley.

Boone says so much of his recovery is his outlook. Mental is a big part of it. My dad has always taught me that attitude can be everything so I've always tried to have a positive attitude and that seems to get you through a lot of stuff.

Boone is also standing completely on his own.

The whole time, he's suffering through what most of us can't imagine, with a spirit most of us could only hope to have.

And for Boone, the mission is clear -- to do what most of take for granted each day.

My big goal is just getting back to what I was doing before, you know, be able to do activities I could even if they aren't as pretty. Just being able to do it will be great so that's what I look at every day, said Bartlome.


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