WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KTVU) - The Walnut Creek teenger who was paralyzed during a wrestling match at College Park High School is making remarkable progress. His parents shared the news with KTVU Friday evening.
From Colorado where Ryan Joseph is undergoing therapy, the 18-year-old spoke about the challenges of his journey.
His father Tom Ryan is in Walnut Creek, getting their family home ready for Ryan's eventual return.
The teen undergoes hours of intensive physical therapy five days a week at Craig Hospital in Colorado which specializes in spinal cord injuries.
Less than two years ago, Ryan was paralyzed from the neck down during a wrestling match.
He was unable to breathe on his own and unable to talk.
But once he regained the ability to talk, Ryan says he knew he could imagine the rest of his life.
"I'm not too worried about it. Things generally work out for me, believe it or not," said Ryan.
It has worked out for Ryan who has spent months receiving a myriad of therapies.
Last week, there was a major breakthrough. Ryan took his first steps all on his own.
His father was in Walnut Creek when he viewed the video of Ryan taking his first steps.
"I just couldn't get over it. I watched it five times, ten times, just over and over," said Tom Joseph who watched it in a coffee shop.
He says he was so excited, he showed it to strangers sitting nearby.
Dad thinks it's Ryan's resilience and determination coupled with his participation in a new research study using electrical stimulation that is making the difference.
Electrodes are placed on the surface of the skin directly over the spinal cord.
When asked what his reaction was to being able to walk a short distance without any assistance, Ryan replied, "Not to sound too confident, but I knew if anybody was to pull it off."
His father showed KTVU the renovations needed to adapt the family home to Ryan's needs. He says work has halted temporarily because of a shortage of money, but that the project is 90 percent completed.
Materials and labor have either been donated or discounted.
"It just means a lot to me to have people rooting for me back home," said Ryan. He has been taking classes at a high school in Colorado, but he'd like to graduate back home.
He says this life-changing experience has taught him there are no guarantees on this journey to recovery.
"It's always nice when that goal post keeps moving. When it stops, that means its stopping progress and it hasn't happened yet," said Ryan.
When he returns home will depend on when his recovery reaches a plateau in Colorado.
His father says he'd like to have the renovations completed as soon as possible.
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