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Ballinger beats diagnosis

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By Amanda Manning

 It’s been almost a year since Tristan Ballinger was injured in a sword accident and he continues to outpace the prognosis doctors gave him.

Last December, his mother told doctors at the Frazier Rehab Institute that it was bothering her that he hadn’t had a shower yet. The doctors obliged. 

When they put him back into a lift after the shower, he came out of the coma – one day before his 16th birthday.

Whether it’s mother’s intuition or a coincidence again, his mother has helped him land a coveted spot at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly known as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The 16-year-old Oldham County High School student began occupational, physical, and speech therapy at the hospital on Oct. 16. 

“It took a lot of work to try to get him in. I found it online through an article, so I did some research and I kept calling different numbers and asking, ‘how do I get an outpatient appointment,’” Nicole Ballinger explained. “And I finally got to the right person.” 

On Aug. 22, Tristan Ballinger and his parents traveled to Chicago for an evaluation with the rehab facility that is named number one in the country for rehabilitation, according to a World Report of best hospitals.

And when they got there, his mom made sure they did have any preconceived notions about him. “I got Tristan in front of them before I allowed them to have any of his history,” NicoleBallinger explained. “So of course I made sure they have all of it now, but I just didn’t want anything holding him back.”

“They were very impressed with Tristan,” Mike Ballinger added.

Nicole Ballinger said she’s interested in Shirley Ryan facililty specifically because they have technology that she believes could really help her son. 

The hospital is the “first ever translational research hospital, where clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, applying research real time to physical medicine and rehabilitation,” according to its website.

“Them being and doing this for so many years and having so much background in it, they were kind of befuddled by the injury,” Nicole Ballinger said. “They said they’ve never seen an injury like his before. They’ve never seen progress like his before and just got really excited.” 

“So for us, it’s going to be huge, just having a team together again and working on Tristan’s future,” Mike Ballinger added. 

For the last several months, Tristan has been swimming laps once a week at the Oldham County YMCA and even working out at a Crossfit gym with the Oldham County High School trainer.

“Not bad for a kid who isn’t supposed to use his legs,” Mike Ballinger noted. 

Doctors told the Ballingers that their son wouldn’t live, wouldn’t talk and wouldn’t be able to move his arms or legs. Despite these diagnoses, they have remained hopeful, and are feeling especially buoyant after a new diagnosis by doctors in Chicago.

Both Nicole and Mike Ballinger say that the continued prayers and support they’ve received from the community mean a lot to them. “It’s huge. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate getting a random text from somebody telling me that they’re still praying for me,” Nicole Ballinger said.