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Please Help Zach Get On the Road to Recovery

On May 7th 2015, Zach Kasow was in a single-car accident on HWY 280 North in California; his car rolled twice at full speed, and his 6’2” frame was pinned in it until the fire department used the Jaws of Life to cut him out. After an eight hour surgery at Stanford Hospital, Zach was informed that he had crushed a cervical vertebra that had damaged his spinal cord, potentially permanently. Zach is now experiencing paralysis but has been informed that with intensive physical rehab and other interventions he can lead an independent lifestyle and drive again if he so wishes!

Updates (23)

May 13, 2017

Good morning,

Last night marked the two-year anniversary of my accident. It occurred around 8pm while driving home from a work conference in the east bay. I’ll never forget that night. My mind was on the weekend – mentally dividing the duties my siblings and I planned to tackle in my mom’s yard for her Mother’s Day gift. I knew I had to pack some things so I could leave directly from work the next day. Then everything changed so fast I can’t even describe it.

I decided to commemorate it by driving past the site where the accident happened. When I drove by, I felt very empowered. This isn’t the first time I have driven the same patch of highway 280 but it was the first time I drove it for this reason. In the past, I could feel my heart rate go up significantly in my chest and then subside the further I got from it. This time, I did it as a way to take back my power.

I’m grateful to still be among the living. I very easily could have died that night either on the scene or shortly thereafter. I remember signing the informed consent for surgery the next morning knowing full well that I may never wake up. Still, somehow, despite all that occurred that night, I came out the other side and have made it my mission to return to normalcy as much as possible. Since then I have re-learned how to do virtually everything. Today my life is back to what it was pre-accident with very few exceptions. I would not be where I am now if it were not for the support I have received every day from those closest to me and all of you who have supported me in other ways. Some of you (you know who you are) have seen me at my very worst physically and emotionally. As I reflect on these past two years, words cannot express the depth of my gratitude to you and everyone else who has been generous enough to donate to my help hope live page.

It has now been more than a year since I began the process of being evaluated to drive a car again. Just writing that sentence is unleashing a flood of memories from those early days of driving again. Since then I have made a lot of progress toward mastering my fear. There are still times when someone will make an erratic move or will appear to be drifting into my lane which causes my heart to jump into my chest; however, they have only gotten easier to manage.

In previous posts, I wrote about volunteering for a study that would take 9 months and involve rowing on a modified machine to determine if the exercise would help maintain bone health. Well, I finished the study I volunteered to do involving rowing. I started the conditioning process (attaching electrodes and having my legs kick to strengthen the quad muscles in my legs) in June about a week after I started driving. By late July I was strong enough to start rowing in earnest. In mid-April I finished the 9 months of rowing and I have only 1 bone scan left to collect. The scans show my leg bones are very healthy. I’m not sure if the rowing increased their density or not. I’m hoping to hear back from the researchers when they have analyzed all the data. On another note, I have been invited back in the Fall to participate in another study examining the forces involved when functional electronic stimulation (aka: what was used in the rowing study) is used when a person is rowing, using a bike, or in a standing frame. It promises to be interesting.

Since the rowing study has come to an end, I recently joined a place where I will be able to start swimming again. I learned how to swim before I finished physical therapy fulling intending to start swimming regularly. While I have gone swimming a few times since then, I have not gone as much as I had planned when I learned. Well, just last week I signed up for an accessible pool so I can continue to exercise regularly now that the study I mentioned before has concluded. It’ll be a great way to stay active.

In previous posts and emails I have mentioned passing the second of my licensing exams. Starting next July, I will be eligible to begin supervising marriage and family interns seeking their hours. I’m looking forward to taking on some supervisees and coming full circle.

Being able to write this and share with all of you helps me to see all the good things I have going in my life. Sometimes I get bogged down in the struggles of daily life and I lose sight of the bigger picture. Thank you all for bearing witness to my journey thus far. I hope you will continue to do so.

Thanks,

Zach

September 8, 2016

A year ago today I left spinal rehab.

The second time around I spent just under 3 weeks learning how to do things like balance while seated (with no trunk muscles it’s harder than it sounds), exercise my muscles properly to avoid straining them or my joints, transferring between surfaces, hoisting my body from a low surface to a high surface (again, more difficult than it sounds with no trunk or leg muscles), and much more.

Before I left, they told me that rehab would truly begin when I got home. They weren’t kidding. I got so spoiled in the hospital with the wide hallways, the flat and hard floors, the wide doorways, and all the people who knew the patients were roaming the halls and were therefore looking out for us.

Despite putting on a brave face, I still remember how scared I was to re-enter the world. I wondered whether I would be able to get into bed, get myself from the apartment outside to somewhere I wanted to go, and return to work with dignity.

Reflecting on the last year I’m proud to say I’m back to driving, back to work, back to exercising, and back to most of my life as it was before the accident. Things are different, of course. Many of the aspects of my new life have become second nature to the point where I barely have to think about them.

Driving has been fun. I’m past the point where it feels like I’m going to throw up every time I get in the car. While I was in rehab, I thought it was a big deal when I got into a van to go on some outings and didn’t think I would drive again for a long time. The first few weeks were rough at times. I tended to avoid high traffic times to keep my stress levels as low as possible. These days I have been able to manage even during high traffic times. When I first started driving I was only able to break my chair down and rebuild it two times a day. My chair weighs 40 pounds so getting into and out of the car has made my arms quite strong. I’m now able to do it as many as 10 times a day. I can now make multiple stops, run errands, and even go out for lunch from time to time. I ran my first errand just a few weeks ago. I stopped at the store on my way home from work and bought something for dinner.

I’ve made some strides in the study I’ve been participating in. The last time I posted, I was still in the process of strengthening my quads and hamstrings in preparation for actually rowing. A little more than a month ago I made the transition to rowing. At first I rowed for a minute then would pull the handle with my arms alone. I was only able to manage a few of these repetitions. With some practice I was able to build up to 30 minutes worth of rowing for a minute and then “resting” for 30 seconds. When I was able to manage that, I graduated to 2 minutes of rowing followed by 30 seconds of rest. With the increase in rowing I had to build back up to 30 minutes of exercise. The increase in rowing has made me practice my form. When I was rowing for only a minute at a time I was able to get away with using only the muscles in my shoulders and arms when the proper technique involves using the large muscles in the upper back. Soon I’ll make the jump to 5 minute reps with the goal ultimately being to get up to 30 minutes of nonstop rowing. I haven’t done exercise like this for awhile. At first, on the drive to work, I kept thinking I was on the verge of a panic attack because of butterflies in my chest. It took me a few days to remember that feeling is an after effect to cardio exercise. It feels really good to be able to get my heart rate up in a healthy way.

My marriage and family therapist license came in the mail and now hangs in my office. I changed the signature in my work email account, ordered business cards, and submitted copies of the license to the various departments in the agency who need it. I can still barely believe that I’m done with that phase of my life. I’ve signed a handful of documents using my new credential. I’m almost counting down until I’m allowed to supervise interns myself.

Work has also been going well. A few weeks ago I was invited to go to a work related conference down in San Diego. It was the first time I traveled somewhere on my own. I drove myself to the airport, pulled my bag out of the trunk, wheeled myself into the airport then through security and onto the plane. I took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and then got myself back home 2 days later. The conference itself was good. I learned some good stuff and also got some validation for some things I have known intuitively for some time now. I hit a few snags during the travel part. In fact, I was able to park right across the street from the terminal I flew out of and while crossing the street my bag rolled right off my lap in the middle of the street. Fortunately there was someone there who was able to pick the bag up and walk into the airport. From there I was able to check it into the airline. When I got to San Diego I was able to wheel myself to the shuttles. The tricky part was rolling up a small ramp with the 35 pound bag on my lap. Good thing for me there was someone there too and he was able to push me up that small ramp. When he offered I was caught off guard but it made my job much easier. On the way back I was able to get back to the car without incident. So, I was able to do almost everything myself. All things considered, everything went very well.

Nothing is easy but everything is getting easier.

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Guestbook

June 29, 2016

So proud of all you've accomplished in the past +1 year Z! Through all you have endured this year you never gave up on your goals and ambitions. It's something I greatly admired about you when we first met, and I'm even more amazed as time goes on. Here's to our upcoming vacation and a life full of adventure!

Adryan

June 8, 2016

Z-- looking forward to seeing you in early June. I hope you and Adryan enjoy the cooking class. You guys deserve a date night to unwind, learn new recipes, and just bask in each other's company. You both work so hard, and I hope soon you guys get the green light for the second test. Miss you

Noelle

June 8, 2016

That story about the carrot, egg and coffee bean really lays it out. I am so glad you are light roasting and toasting to life, and it inspires me to do the same. Best on your recovery discovery.

Liz Kelley

June 8, 2016

As a huge thank you for helping me prepare my resume so I can hopefully enter this next chapter of my career, I am donating to your cause. This world would not be the same without you Zach! You are a gem!

Pam T.