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After the Fall: Student sees new purpose in life following near tragic event

Jeremy Golden learned the difficult way what his calling in life is.

On the night of Oct. 14, 2005, Golden fell three stories off of a Killebrew Hall balcony and hit the pavement, shattering his vertebrae. Following a grueling 11-hour surgery, doctors gave the 19-year-old Austin Peay State University student from Las Vegas, Nev., little hope that he would walk again.

Golden proved them wrong – hes continuing his education at Austin Peay and walks like nothing happened. Yet, the near tragedy changed the young mans future.
Jeremy Golden learned the difficult way what his calling in life is.

On the night of Oct. 14, 2005, Golden fell three stories off of a Killebrew Hall balcony and hit the pavement, shattering his vertebrae. Following a grueling 11-hour surgery, doctors gave the 19-year-old Austin Peay State University student from Las Vegas, Nev., little hope that he would walk again.

Golden proved them wrong — he's continuing his education at Austin Peay and walks like nothing happened. Yet, the near tragedy changed the young man's future.

On that night before his accident, Golden and a couple of his friends were playing video games in the dorm room on Killebrew's third floor. He also was intoxicated.

“We were doing something we shouldn't have been doing,” Golden said.

Not remembering why, Golden said he became angry with one of his friends and charged at him. Instead of making physical contact with his friend, Golden hit the rail. Unable to regain his balance, he landed on concrete.

He was transported by helicopter to Gateway Hospital and then to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville.

Golden said he had no recollection of that night, and it wasn't until after the surgery that he began to remember pieces of the event.

“I remember waking up. I couldn't move,” he said of the moment when he gained consciousness. “I had a tube in my throat.

“After my surgery, people tried to tell me what had happened, and every time I passed out.”

Doctors at Vanderbilt informed Golden he was paralyzed and told him to prepare for a life of little movement.

For rehabilitation, Golden reported to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., outside of Denver. But a few days before he left for Craig, he moved a finger. Then a toe.

“I think that surprised the doctors a little bit,” he said.

According to its Web site, Craig Hospital is world renowned in specialty rehabilitation and research for people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

Not long after he arrived at Craig, movement in other parts of Golden's body began to return — developments that baffled doctors.

“Doctors kept coming in and asking, ‘OK, what's working today?'” Golden said, smiling.
One of the most important benefits of Craig Hospital is the opportunity for patients with similar ages, backgrounds and injuries to teach, encourage and support one another.

Last November, Golden began walking again. On Dec. 12 — one and a half months after he arrived — he left Craig recovered.

But it was at Craig where Golden discovered his path in life. His rapid recovery inspired other patients there, and Golden encouraged them to work on their progress.

“I feel like I was able to show them that you can't give up,” he said. “I think I helped them to realize that there is hope.”

A former marketing major, Golden has changed his focus of study to physical therapy, working one day “hopefully for Craig,” he said.

“I just know I can use my experience to help them in a way a doctor can't,” he said. “I can come to the patient's level.”

Not undergoing additional therapy or taking any medication, Golden has regained his power. He is able to type again and is working to rebuild his muscles.

Golden is, however, afraid of heights as a result of the three-story fall. And he quickly admits, “I don't like to drink anymore.” — Melony Leazer