Almost everyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania is familiar with how Kiel Eigen was injured. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a football game at the age of 14. Kiel has been an enthusiastic participant in Allied’s Spinal Cord Injury Program ever since.

After about two months as an inpatient at Allied Rehab Hospital, where he received four hours of intense physical and occupational therapy per day, he began treatment as an outpatient.

Kiel said even when he couldn’t pick up his arms or his head, his therapists knew just how far to push him and when to hold back. He couldn’t sit up straight in a chair. His therapists patiently guided him through repetitive exercises designed to build his strength and endurance.

“I went from relying on so many people, my family, my doctors and therapists. Now I am living alone, and am fully independent,” says Kiel. “When my accident happened, I was so young I didn’t realize what I’d have to do. But now I’m totally fine all by myself.”

Kiel had a goal to walk by the time he graduated high school. He did it even before then, with braces, at Senior Night for Basketball. The second time was when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, a moment that thrilled his family, his therapists, his teachers, his fellow students, and all the people who watched it on TV.

When asked what he learned through all his experiences, Kiel says, “I learned not to take anything for granted, because it can be gone in the blink of an eye. I realized how much I had to be grateful for. Everyone in Old Forge, my friends, and kids in other schools who supported me. It made me feel so good to think people I barely knew were helping me get better.

“Most of all I realized what my parents mean to me. They were by my side constantly from day one, through thick and thin. Without them I would not have come anywhere near as far as I have.”

“Also, Gina Tomassoni, my inpatient physical therapist was there in the beginning, the hardest part. Then Stacey Cox picked right up where Gina left off. Stephanie Maciolek helped me learn to button and zipper my clothes, and use utensils. I learned how to put my contact lenses in and take them out. Stephanie could always find a way for me to adapt. My therapists were the keys to my independence.”

Kyle, now 19, is studying criminal justice and political science at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre. After earning his bachelors degree, he hopes to go on to law school. When he’s not busy studying, he enjoys weight lifting at the gym, listening to hip hop, and just hanging out with his friends.

Becoming an attorney takes determination. If there is one thing Kiel Eigen has proven to everyone at Allied, it’s that he has what it takes to reach and to go beyond his goals.