VIDEO/PHOTOS: Ryan Duffy moves to rehab center in Atlanta after spinal injury

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Ryan Duffy, Baseball Athlete of the Year, Barron Collier High School
Tracy Boulian/Staff

Ryan Duffy, Baseball Athlete of the Year, Barron Collier High School Tracy Boulian/Staff

Ryan Duffy, former Barron Collier High School standout baseball player, in 2005.

Daily News file photo

Ryan Duffy, former Barron Collier High School standout baseball player, in 2005.

A former Barron Collier High baseball player who suffered serious spinal injuries has moved to a rehabilitation center in Atlanta, where he hopes to learn how to walk again.

Ryan Duffy, who also played baseball at Mississippi State University, broke his neck and six vertebrae diving into shallow water during a weekend trip to the Florida Keys with friends in August.

After undergoing surgery nearly two months ago at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Duffy has worked to get off a ventilator and learned how use a computer that reads eye movements to spell out words so he can communicate. The ventilator prevents Duffy from speaking.

Now, with specialized care at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Duffy may one day be able to walk.

Duffy has been accepted into a program that typically takes 950 patients a year. Once his insurance and benefits were secured through Mississippi Sate, the trauma center was able to locate ideal rehabilitation centers. An admissions liaison met the family to supplement education the family receives at the treatment center.

Though Cathy Duffy was unable to comment because she was en route to Georgia, family friend Vicki Zeliff said they are excited about the move to the Shepherd Center.

“This is the best place he could go,” Zeliff said. “ We’re so happy he’s going.”

The center focuses exclusively on patients who have had brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or a combination of both.

This concentrated care also teaches family members how to cope with taking care of their loved one as part of the treatment. For her training and to help acclimate her son to his new environment, Cathy will stay free for 30 days at the center’s apartment complex, located across the street from the rehab center.

While the average length of stay at the facility is about 45 days, according to Mitch Fillhaber, vice president of marketing and managed care at the Shepherd Center, Cathy Duffy can split up the 30 days throughout his treatment any way she sees fit.

So, if Ryan’s condition improves, he could be moved to day care, which would allow him to stay at the apartments with his mother and spend his days at the rehabilitation center.

“This is one of the best ways to transition patients back home,” said Fillhaber. “(For them) living in our apartment complex, they are given all the self care the patient needs, either with a paid nurse or by coming to day care; it’s a good way to gauge readiness to come home.”

The center also has a program called, care pass, which is where they map out what services patients receive, how much progress each week they make and what the estimated length of stay is, Fillhaber said.

Family and friends can follow Ryan Duffy’s progress and send well wishes by visiting www.caringbridge.org/visit/ryanduffy1.

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