Paralyzed Walnut Creek teen hopes to graduate on time, continues therapy

The high school wrestler from Walnut Creek who was paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury during a match in January, granted KTVU his first interview since the accident. 

16-year-old Ryan Joseph is undergoing physical therapy at Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation facility in Colorado that specializes in treating patients with spinal cord injuries.  

On Thursday, Ryan spoke with us from Craig Hospital. In his words, he describes his progress as "fantastic." 

He undergoes a myriad of therapies each day. One is the "Lokomat" where he's supported by a harness over a treadmill to achieve a walking pattern even when he has little leg movement. 

"There's no day that looks the same than the one before. I've got so much going on that everyday is a new day," said Ryan. He  credits his progress to hard work, perhaps enhanced by his positive attitude.

"When I got here, I couldn't even roll on my side on my own. I couldn't push the elevator buttons," said Ryan. "A million small victories. It adds up."   

Those small victories are captured on video by Ryan's parents who shared them with KTVU.  

In the videos, the teen is seen  moving his fingers and regaining movement in his legs.The couple, Krisin and Tom Joseph, says  being in Colorado together as a family with Ryan and his sister helps them cope. 

"That's the kind of  consistency that we've had. Usually gets us through everyday," said Kristin, Ryan's mother.  

When Ryan first arrived at Craig hospital at the end of January, he  needed help breathing and eating.

His approach is step by step, one day at a time.   

"He laughs a lot since he's been here," said Tom Joseph, Ryan's father, "Not a lot of 16-yea-olds are challenged this way. You worry about the emotional side and Ryan makes it easy on us."  

Ryan says he hasn't been depressed since the first few days after his accident, but that is not to say it's been an easy adjustment to his new life. 

"Some days, I'm just tired.  That's the hardest thing to deal with," said Ryan.     

The College Park High sophomore says he'll be undergoing therapy at Craig Hospital for at least another three months.

He says he misses his friends and wants to see them as soon as he gets back home. 

"I'm a little bummed out.  A bunch of my buddies on the wrestling team are graduating. But  a bunch of my friends on the lacrosse team...just everybody, all my friends," said Ryan.  

He said he's grateful for the support he's received and that messages such as these are a tremendous help. 

His eyes are on one goal: walking again. 

"If I don't get it done fast, it's gonna take a while. But it's gonna get done," said Ryan,"I'm not going to die in this chair. I  have a lot to look forward to."   

The teen is scheduled to be  discharged from the hospital next week, 

His parents say they will remain in the Denver area for now so Ryan can continue to receive therapy as an outpatient.

Ryan says he's been doing some school work to keep up and plans to  return to College Park High next year as a junior.

He intends to take summer classes so he can graduate on time in 2020.  

A gofundme for Ryan seeks $500,000.