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Rob Summers was born February 26, 1986 in Portland. An exceptional athlete and standout student, Summers was well on his way to success. Though he excelled in many sports, baseball was his passion. Summers led his high school baseball team to a State Championship and was named a three-time All-State Pitcher and Outfielder. He was just a junior in high school when the pro scouts came calling. He declined an offer to enter the draft right out of high school because he wanted a college education. In 2006, he helped lead Oregon State University win the College World Series.
One month later, Summers was struck in a severe hit-and-run accident that paralyzed him below the neck. Doctors told him he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. His dreams of being a professional baseball player were shattered.
The shock of life as a quadriplegic, however, did not deter Summers, it only made him stronger. He did not resign himself to being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Shortly after getting out of the hospital Summers began therapy at Project Walk where he worked up to 6 hours a day eventually regaining movement in his upper body. He became the first documented quadriplegic to be able to do handstand push-ups.
Determined to beat the odds, Summers began therapy with Dr. Susan Harkema with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. His injury was similar to the injury sustained by the famed Superman actor, so Dr. Harkema thought Summers was a good fit. She credited his determination, his athletic background, work ethic, and maturity to become the spokesperson for a groundbreaking surgery.
In December of 2009, after 3 years of intense physical therapy, Summers underwent surgery called Epidural Stimulation in which doctors implanted an electric nerve stimulator in Summers' spine, below the damaged area. When the stimulator is turned on, a panel of 16 electrodes reactivate the nerves in Summers' spinal cord, helping him move his muscles on his own. With this surgery, Summers became the first paralysis patient to undergo a procedure that uses his own nerve impulses to help move parts of his body that he was told he would never use again. Three days after his surgery, he was able to stand and 9 months later, he was able to take his first steps.
Summers' story was featured all over the world on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, Time Magazine, Men's Health, HLN, BBC, New York Times, LA Times, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His story received over 200 million internet hits within the first 24 hours of breaking. CNN even named Summers one of the most intriguing people.
Summers has become the face and advocate for people with spinal cord injuries spreading the message to not give up and that anything is possible. With his public speaking engagements, Summers is now inspiring people all over the world to follow their dreams and never give up despite the odds against them. He is a true testament to hard work, determination, and the pursuit of dreams. He believes that you should never take no for an answer no matter what the obstacles. Absolutely anything is possible, and Summers will continue to break barriers and do incredible things --- things that people once told him were impossible.
Summers, who now resides in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, still functions in a wheel chair on a day to day basis but can now stand for an hour and a half.
“We will have the official audience evaluations tabulated soon but I would give Rob 5 of 5 stars, especially as this was one of his first larger engagements. Overall, he was amazing for the blended scientific and human story he provided to this audience. Rob is a very straightforward, earnest and a good communicator. He is especially suited for this type of setting.”