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Walking his way to recovery

June 9, 2008

After nearly a year of intense therapy, Adam Kappes walks for his diploma

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

It’s been nearly a year since recent Dassel-Cokato graduate Adam Kappes was told he was likely never to walk again. Kappes proved the doctors wrong and walked to receive his diploma during commencement May 31.

“I never believed it,” Kappes said, who is recovering more fully than he was told he would.

Kappes was a passenger in a 2002 BMW convertible that rolled on Meeker County Highway 4 near Grove City last June.

Also in the car was Daniel Russel, 16, of Cokato, and driving was Daniel Polzin, 17, of Cokato. Both have since recovered from their injuries.

Kappes suffered from a spinal cord injury, a broken wrist, broken shoulder, and several broken ribs.

As far as the progress of his recovery, Kappes says he can’t complain.

“I’m better than they’ve been telling me,” he said.

All the while, the doctors told him he would never have feeling below his armpits.

“I never believed it,” he said.

After the accident, Kappes spent about three weeks at the St. Cloud Hospital, and was then transferred to Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, where he spent four more weeks.

Kappes was told he had too many broken bones to continue with therapy there, and he spent time where he was happy to be – closer to home at the Emmanuel Home in Litchfield, before returning to Abbott.

No longer needing to be in a hospital state, he continued physical therapy at the Courage Center in Golden Valley with three friends he met while at Abbott, also with spinal cord injuries.

Kappes joked the Abbott nurses wanted the four of them to come back because they were so much fun to have around.

During his therapy and recovery, Kappes was being tutored, as well.

Because the nurses and doctors were unsure of his recovery and the likelihood of him walking again, Kappes was taught to do everything as if he would be paralyzed.

“This made me [mad],” he said. Kappes felt it was unnecessary to learn such things because he was going to walk again.

“I never considered myself paralyzed. It was just another bump in the road I needed to deal with,” he said.

After Christmas break, Kappes returned home to attend his senior year at DC.

The thing that disappointed him the most after returning was not being able to play football in his final year of high school. Kappes previously played the position of lineman.

“ I was [mad], especially how far we went this year,” he said, referring to the section championship game in Glencoe.

Kappes continues physical therapy three days a week and goes for walks in the evenings with his mother, Deb.

He can feel everything the doctors said he wouldn’t, but not the same as it used to be, Kappes said.

From time to time, he still has pain in his right shoulder, and he was also just informed of a minor head injury that recently appeared on an MRI.

Though there are no major symptoms, the shaking from the accident may have affected his memory, but Kappes joked it was not always there before the accident either.

About a month ago, Kappes began walking with crutches and braces on his legs that help support the weaker muscles, he explained.

For long distances, Kappes still uses his wheelchair, but around the house and for short distances, he does use his crutches or a walker.

Though Kappes is happy with his progress, it isn’t good enough for him yet – not until he is able to walk on his own again, he said.

“If I don’t do it (walk), no one’s going to do it for me,” he said.

Prior to graduation, Kappes was encouraged by his friends and family to walk on the stage to receive his diploma at commencement.

In his mind, Kappes always knew he would walk during graduation.

“He’s focused on walking,” said his mother.

During the commencement ceremony, Kappes was the first to be called to come and accept his diploma.

What was planned to be a surprise to the audience and his classmates, Kappes walked with his crutches to the top of the stage and accepted his diploma.

“He wanted to keep it somewhat of a secret. A lot of people don’t realize how far he’s come,” his mother said.

“This was an opportunity for him to show his progress,” she added.

With tears in their eyes, graduates and audience members stood up and clapped for his courageous accomplishment.

“Inspirational and courageous will be the way people remember Adam,” said high school principal Dean Jennissen who attests to Adam’s determination and eagerness to walk during commencement.

Graduating hasn’t quite kicked in for Kappes yet.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m graduated. It just feels like another summer,” he said.

This week, Kappes is taking a four-day assessment at Ridgewater College in Willmar to determine what field he would like to go into, but he is leaning toward becoming a diesel mechanic.

“I haven’t figured it out – how it’s going to work yet,” he said.

Just months after the accident, Katie Bauer of the Country Gallery photographed him for his senior pictures and she was impressed with his positive attitude and determination.

“It was one of the best parts of my summer photographing him because he gave me such a different look on stuff,” Bauer said. “Adam is such a good kid.”

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