Tyler DeGraw Learned to Walk Again After a Skiing Accident

May 31, 2022

Tyler DeGrawTyler DeGraw, 27, was enjoying a day of skiing with friends at Big Bear Mountain when he had a serious accident. “I was trying to do a jump, which I had done before, so it wasn’t anything crazy. Something went wrong and I broke the T11 vertebrae in my spine, along with a rib and some hairline fractures.”

He was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center is Colton, where he remained for about two weeks before transferring to the Rehabilitation Institute Palmdale Regional for specialized, acute rehabilitation. “Palmdale Regional was much closer to home for me,” he explains.

Learning to Reclaim Function

After his accident, DeGraw was unable to walk and he required 13 days of inpatient rehabilitation.

The Rehabilitation Institute at Palmdale Regional offers the region’s only specialized acute rehabilitation services for patients recovering from stroke, brain injury, orthopedic conditions and spinal cord injury. 

When DeGraw arrived at Palmdale Regional, he was still experiencing a great deal of pain in his back and legs. His biggest goal was to relearn how to walk.

“At first, I just could not balance my legs. Like they were just weren't staying straight,” he explains. “I would try to put weight on them and my legs would either buckle or move to the side or something. It was almost like having alien legs and it was very weird.”

At the Rehabilitation Institute, DeGraw participated in intensive therapy for three hours a day. He did many exercises designed to target different muscle groups in his legs and back.

Therapy took place in the Institute’s on-site gym. “It was just really nice that they had everything right there, steps away from my door,” DeGraw recalls.

When he didn’t have therapy, the nurses helped DeGraw stay active when he felt up to it. He would take a lap around the floor with the help of a nurse or one of his visitors. “That certainly helped because I've gotten back to walking pretty well now,” he says. “It definitely made a big difference to have some control over my recovery.”

With practice at the Rehabilitation Institute, DeGraw began to regain more and more control. One of his legs was dragging a bit but with time and therapy, it has greatly improved. 

Back on His Feet

DeGraw is pleased with his experience at Palmdale Regional’s Rehabilitation Institute.

“Hopefully no one else has this issue. But if they do, I’d certainly tell them to choose Palmdale Regional,” he says. “They were all very caring and helpful, whether it was trying to go for a walk or get dressed or whatever it happened to be. They were all very personable, too.”

The Rehabilitation Institute, like the rest of Palmdale Regional, offers all private rooms. This made a big difference to DeGraw during his stay.

“It was really nice having my own room and being able to close the door,” he remembers. “The rooms were much bigger than I expected and so well-accommodated. And you don’t have to worry about a roommate’s schedule conflicting with yours.”

These days, DeGraw is attending outpatient rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute (ROI) at Palmdale Regional. He is looking forward to having his back brace removed soon, so that he can begin practicing bending and light lifting.

“I’m not fully back, but walking around is significantly easier,” DeGraw explains. “Being able to sit is much easier than it was and I can do stairs way better than I could before inpatient rehab. For now, what I'm able to do is pretty crazy. I’ve come very far.”

Will he ski again? “I certainly plan to, but I’m not doing jumps anymore,” he says. “I’m just going to go hit the nice, groomed runs and just coast around with friends.”