Hero Story: JD Bruning & Kelly Lamb

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s Life Changing Impact on Quadriplegic JD Bruning and his girlfriend, Kelly Lamb

We Can Never Relax. These four words have two meanings to Kelly Lamb, Manager of Team Reeve Endurance, and her boyfriend of many years, Jon David “JD” Bruning.

JD & Kelly

JD is a quadriplegic; his break is at the C5 vertebrae. On July 6, 2013, at the age of 22, JD was injured in a diving accident on a river in Missouri when his neck was broken upon impact. At the time, Kelly was living in New York City and didn't know how to cope with JD’s injury and their new normal. In 2017, Kelly moved back to Arkansas (where the couple met) to be with JD and plan their future together.

Initially, JD was diagnosed as a complete quadriplegic, but the doctors are now unable to determine if JD is a complete or incomplete quad. That is because JD once turned over his left arm! JD currently has function down to the wrist in both arms. He has strong bicep control, but weak triceps. He wears braces on his hands/arms to straighten them out and he has an ultrasound device to be used on his fingers.

We Can Never Relax. Daily Life

According to Kelly, the most frustrating aspect of their “new normal” is they can never relax. Their daily routine consists of taking numerous medications, catheter maintenance, continuous movement to prevent pressure sores, atrophy, etc. JD currently has a pressure sore, which has been present for over 8 months. Pressure sores, Kelly believes, are the biggest secondary issue for quadriplegics because they can occur on the legs, feet, ankles, and sitz bones.

Other secondary issues include nerve pain, high/low blood pressure, and the inability to sleep. With respect to the mental aspect, Kelly advises that JD has always has been remarkably strong.

“JD was always identified as the helper, so it’s hard for friends to see him rely on help. And the hardest thing for JD is to rely on help.”, Kelly says.​

Kelly has always tried to be positive, but she understands when JD says he just needs to have a bad day. “He’s not a dweller. He’s a realist.” The grief process is a life-long process and Kelly and JD accept that.

We Can Never Relax. Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Kelly Running for Team Reeve

The Reeve Foundation’s Mission Statement is: Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure. The Reeve Foundation provides an army of resources for both physical and emotional support to those with spinal cord injuries and to their loved ones. Kelly believes that a cure is in sight and “we will need to change the mission statement.”

When people think of the word “cure” with respect to an individual with a spinal cord injury, they think the person must be able to run, jump, etc. But that’s not exactly what “cure” means to them. A “win” to JD and Kelly would be something such as being able to move his bowels or move his hand. We can never relax and stop fighting to raise awareness, advancing quality of life, and discovering cures for spinal cord injuries.

“We need to educate because it’s hard to get advancements and devices approved [by insurance, FDA].”, says Kelly.

The Reeve Foundation actively advocates and lobbies Congress. Some examples of advancements, which The Reeve Foundation assists to fund and/or assist in making people aware are available, are the following:

Devices: The Epidural stimulator device is implanted on the lower part of the spine and can send signals past the injured part of the spine, resulting in voluntary movement. This device is still in the trial phase, but the FDA approved it last year. There are other devices not as invasive that can go on top of the skin. They are not as effective, but do have a positive impact on the patient. Kelly says that new devices continue to be developed and the Reeve Foundation stays on top of these possibilities.

Hyperbaric chamber: JD is currently using this chamber to assist with his pressure sore. JD experienced more success in one month than the first 8 when he developed the sore. He sits in the chamber for 2 hours, once per week.

JD in a Hyperbaric Chamber

Kelly will be running her 6th marathon in Chicago on October 13, 2019 for Team Reeve! Kelly was not a distance runner until JD’s accident (she was a dancer), but she wanted to connect with others and help with advocacy.

Kelly started immediately with Team Reeve, raising money and awareness, and in February 2019, Kelly became the Manager of Team Reeve! Kelly states she will continue running until JD is standing at the finish line, even if it’s with the assistance of a device. She will not relax until that day!

Author: Rebecca Pascarell

Rebecca Pascarell is an attorney working with the Chaffin Luhana Foundation who is dedicated to Peloton cycling and endurance sports. She is an advocate for various causes/organizations, including The Reeve Foundation, The American Heart Association and The American Stroke Association.