-- The wife of a Florida man who was paralyzed from the neck down in a near-fatal car crash said it was pure “magic” when she was able to dance with him to their wedding song this month. That was the first time her husband was able to stand in six years.
"For him to be able to regain this much movement in such a short amount of time, there’s no stopping him at this point," Jackson's wife, Lauren, told ABC News.
“I was like, ‘Oh, we are doing that today,’” Lauren told ABC News, describing her shock.
Joel suffered a C-1 injury, usually a deadly injury, when he was a passenger in a car that crashed in 2009. The couple, who have known each other since they were 14, dated very briefly but broke up when they were still teenagers. The two were reunited after Lauren heard about Joel's near fatal injuries and rushed to the bedside of her ex-boyfriend.
Lauren said she stayed by his side during his recovery, and the pair were married in 2013. At their wedding, held in a barn and attended by 250 guests, Lauren sat on her husband’s lap for their wedding dance to Edwin McCain’s “I'll Be.”
Joel spent 87 days in the hospital after the crash and had not made much progress, according to his wife, before she moved him to Florida and started taking him in July to twice-weekly therapy sessions at the Brooks Rehabilitation Neuro Recovery Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
It was there that Joel, who communicates via computer and facial expressions, began to make enough progress that his physical therapist, Staci Balkan, had him stand up using Zero-G technology, which allows Joel to use only the amount of body weight he can handle.
“You never know how much paralyzed patients can tolerate with being upright but he’s tolerating it very well,” Balkan told ABC News. “When we stood for the first time, Lauren mentioned they never had their first dance, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Lauren told the center’s employees that their wedding song had been “I’ll Be" and a few moments later, the song began playing over the loudspeakers. With a cell phone camera rolling, the Jacksons slow danced to their wedding song, two years after they said “I do.”
“This is why we do what we do, so we can provide patients with things they maybe never felt possible,” Balkan said. “It was a beautiful moment.”
Jackson says her husband has told her he felt “euphoric” in the moment, and said afterwards, "I knew I had a purpose."
“If there is such thing as magic, that was magic,” Jackson said. “I’ve been told, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room but I don’t even know who was in the room because besides him and me and the therapist, no one else was in the room to me in that moment.”
Lauren, an artist and wedding photographer/planner, said the moment gave new life to Joel.
“When he’s able to stand and walk, he says he feels young again,” she said. “For him to stand again, it made him feel invincible again.”