Elson Fortes learned a great deal about himself during his rehabilitation process. A soft-spoken former operating room attendant and graphic designer, Elson’s whole world changed on Labor Day 2016 when he was shot in the back—a random act of violence that happened after he drove a friend home from a party. Elson underwent emergency, life-saving surgery. When he woke up, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“My injury helped clarify what’s important,” says Elson. “I felt like I was losing everything I knew in my life because of it. That made me want to create a future where I controlled my own destiny.”
Spaulding’s mission includes a commitment to improving quality of life. We do that through direct patient care, teaching and research, advocacy efforts, and innovative programming. At Spaulding Hospital Cambridge, we help people get their lives back from even the most complex and acute medical problems—from spinal cord injuries to COVID-19. And we do it with support from donors, whose generous gifts help get our patients find their strength and rebuild their lives.
One day, peer mentor Dave Estrada stopped by Elson’s room in Spaulding Hospital Cambridge. Dave has a spinal cord injury himself, and helps lead the Exercise for Persons with Disabilities (ExPD) program based in Cambridge. He encouraged Elson to give it a try. “If you get someone involved in exercise, sports, and recreation, it makes them realize they have options and can do other things,” says Dave. “It lets people know what they’re capable of.”
Elson has competed in four indoor adaptive rowing competitions, most recently earning a bronze medal. Thanks to ExPD—and despite his injury—Elson says, “I’m more active now than I was before my injury.”
He’s also started his own graphic design company and is preparing an exhibition for display in the patient art gallery at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown. He’s more fulfilled than ever.View more Patient Stories.
Imagine the Possibilities
At a time when scientific advancements can help make the impossible possible, an investment in rehabilitation medicine has never been more necessary—or more promising.
Your gift to Spaulding can make a real difference...starting now.