Jeremy Bigelow's stem cell treatment: a comeback story

Jeremy Bigelow's stem cell treatment: a comeback story
"The marathons that I ran right before the accident set me up for those slow and steady wins," said Bigelow about his injuries.
"The marathons that I ran right before the accident set me up for those slow and steady wins," said Bigelow about his injuries.

SYLVANIA, OH (WTOL) - One night in October 2010 changed Jeremy Bigelow's life forever.

The former Northview High School star athlete was in a car accident that left him with a severe spinal cord injury and paralyzed him from the shoulders down.

Fast forward more than five years, and Bigelow is seeking out stem cell treatments in hopes of turning things around for him, and for others.

"Ever since the accident, I've been trying to find a way to beat this," he said. "The spinal cord was fractured, and now stem cells are the 'big talk' and the future of a lot of healing, physically and mentally."

After being introduced to the stem cell procedure by the Gordie Howe family, and after much research, Bigelow decided to venture to Baja California to get the treatment.

"It's nothing guaranteed. But nothing ventured; nothing gained," said Bigelow. "I know if I don't do this, time is just working against me. So I don't have time to mess around. If I have to find a way to put this together, I will, and I did, and that's the trip tomorrow."

The procedure involves stem cells being introduced into the bloodstream - first through a spinal tap; the next day through an intravenous injection.

Experts say the treatment expounds on the theory that the cells will migrate to injured places in the body. in this case, Bigelow's spine.

"We're only hoping that they'll be able to create some type of bridge a little bit. We're not looking for a total cure I'm looking for anything," he said.

Currently, Bigelow's day-to-day treatment includes physical and hyperbaric therapy, along with intense workout routines.

"I'm trying to stay busy and active and getting back to doing the things that I love, which is working out. I know I have a long journey ahead of me," Bigelow said. "Everyone that supports me, that we call Team Bigelow, are kind of like the hands that have wrapped around me and helped me push on in this journey."

Bigelow credits his support system and upbringing to having so much faith throughout this experience.

"My background; being athletic. The marathons that I ran right before the accident set me up for those slow and steady wins - the race mindset of it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. And although it's not at the pace that I want it to, it's something that's not in my hands," he said, also noting that the journey is not just about him.

Bigelow wants to bring about real change, especially within the community.

"Here in Toledo, no one has taken it upon themselves to help. That's kind of my goal in my life right now: to bring some physical rehab for spinal cord injuries to here in town. For Toledo to have ProMedica and some of the biggest hospitals in's kind of looking away," he said. "It's my goal to see what's out there, and hopefully, at some point, bring it to town and get people to realize that it's a need. People with spinal cord injuries will literally sit in their house; there's nothing to do. Physical therapy's a huge health advantage, but it's also the social aspect of it. Mentally, you stay sharp, you engage in conversations, you get out of your chair and moving. It turns into a mental thing: people don't want to go out into the community because people look at them differently because they're in a chair. You can't look at the chair, you have to get to know who the person is. And that's a sad fact about society."

But Bigelow's taking that experience and turning it around.

"People will walk by and look at me, and they're kind of hesitant of even looking at me. And I'll say hi, and they're like whoa, this guy can talk. So it's been a huge eye-opener for me, and all I can say is I hope to influence the community and others by me putting myself out there, allowing myself to be vulnerable and seeing what changes I can make," he said.

For now, those changes include milestones from a hopefully-successful stem cell treatment.

"I can only hope that I can at least get like one hand to work or to try to get back my independence as much as I can," he said.

But he's not stopping there.

"I would take anything at this point," he said. "When you lose your independence you learn a lot about not just yourself but the people in your life. You really learn who your true friends are."

The new stem cell venture is just the beginning of one of Bigelow's chapters… Or as he likes to call it, a comeback story.

To follow along with Bigelow, find out more information about his upcoming golf fundraiser or to donate, click here.

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