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Step by Step: Kent Templien’s Resilience

A hush falls over the auditorium. 75 onlookers in silence.

They watch—some in awe, hands cupped over their mouths—as Kent Templien makes a slow, determined walk to the front of the room. Kent labors to plant one foot ahead of the other. He braces his elbows onto the pads of a platform walker and a physical therapist shadows his every move. Checking balance, watching the lift of his heels, ensuring his toes clear the ground each step.

Many in the audience, Rotarians in the Omaha West Rotary Club—a club in which Kent is a member and former President, last saw Kent at the beginning of his journey. Not at the start of his walk, but at the start of his hardship. Months ago, after he’d broken his neck and lost most of the use of his hands, arms, and legs in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

Kent is not shy about the reality of paralysis. He describes it as “starting over,” candid about the sheer effort he needed, and still needs, to exert will over his body. It takes everything to muster uncoordinated, simple movements. In the best of cases, it takes days and weeks and months of that same everything to even entertain the idea of walking again.

Kent perseveres.

“He is fighting with every part of his body to be the best he can possibly be,” says Brad Dexter, QLI’s coordinator of physical and occupational therapy, who, alongside QLI’s expert team of clinicians, helps Kent blueprint a path back to walking.

After months of practice with robotic gait training technology, countless sessions with occupational therapists manipulating the dexterity of his hands, and hours upon hours upon relentless hour of physical conditioning, Kent’s designs, his vision for recovery, become corporeal.

Kent reaches the front of the auditorium. He turns, pivoting on his feet so he can ease himself into a chair. Not a wheelchair, it’s worth mentioning—his is the same kind of chair every able-bodied individual in the room has used for the duration of the luncheon.

And when he sits, Kent’s Rotarian brothers and sisters erupt into applause. Kent’s family—his wife and two daughters—are in attendance, too, watching as he walks in defiance of his injury. Each step forward a monument to his indefatigable spirit. Indeed, great pride fills the room. There is a sense, an implicit understanding between Kent and everyone in the audience and anyone who knows him, that this was always going to be the way he managed this injury. Not with reluctance or reticence or gloom.

But with lots and lots of hard work.

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