It was just a nudge. A playful nudge. And then the unthinkable... On the pool deck, John Bannon was tossing a tennis ball to his teenage daughter and her friends as they leapt off a diving board, catching the ball midair. It was a hot June afternoon in 1992 and the pool party was a refreshing end to a softball tournament.
Then, elbowed by a friend, John plunged into the shallow end, the back of his head hitting the bottom. In that instant, John became a quadriplegic. He was 36 years old, the father of two. In the aftermath, John recalls a nurse telling him to get used to the wheelchair, that he wouldn't walk again.
But on May 27, 2006, John walked his daughter down the aisle. On the dance floor, he took the new bride in his arms and danced. It was a dream John never thought possible.
Research made it happen. John was among the first participants in a clinical trial at Parkwood Hospital for a drug called 4-aminopyridine (Fampridine) designed to allow signals from the brain to travel across injured areas in the spinal cord to reach the muscles. The drug controls John's debilitating muscle spasms, dramatically improving his stamina, strength and quality of life.
"I feel so fortunate to experience the benefits of research. It has allowed me to have an active, independent life despite my injury. And it fuels my optimism for the future."