Local hero to travel around world for stem cell injections - abc27 WHTM

Local hero to travel around world for stem cell injections

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"A sniper just opened up, took a shot and hit me in the neck," said U.S. Army Cpl. Matthew Hanes.

In a matter of seconds, Hanes' life changed forever.

"The bullet went in and fractured my vertebrae and severed my spinal chord, so from the chest down I am paralyzed," Hanes said.

Nearly two years later, Hanes is still adjusting to his new way of life and misses the simple things that most take for granted.

"Driving or just going for a run, just like that," said Hanes.

Though it has been tough, Hanes gets by with a little help from his four-legged friend, Jackson.

"If I ever drop anything, he can pick up it. He can turn on and off lights and eventually he'll be able to open up doors for me, or pull the chair if I get too tired, or transfer me in and out of the chair," said Hanes.

Jackson, a 1-year-old German shepherd, is a service dog.

"He's been a great thing to have around for the last few months and he definitely keeps a smile on my face," said Hanes.

But Hanes hopes that one day he won't need to rely on Jackson.

"The stem cell treatments they have over there and in Europe are very far ahead of what we had, and they've had a few hundred patients and had good results and it seemed like the place to go," said Hanes.

On April 1, Hanes and his mom will travel to Beijing, China where doctors will try to fix his spinal chord with stem cell injections. It requires minor surgery and stem cell therapy to build a bridge over two vertebrae that were shattered when Hanes was shot in Afghanistan in 2012.

"Definitely a possibility that I will get everything back," said Hanes.

When he first told his parents he wanted to go around the world, they weren't so sure.

"We were a little leery about it and I had a lot of questions about it, and he said, 'Well, go ahead and ask,' and everything I asked he had answers for," said Matthew's mom, Christine Hanes.

"It's hard to see your child struggle, no matter what it is. I am not going to deprive him of that. That's what he wants, that's what he'll go for."

At 22 years old, Hanes has the rest of his life ahead of him. He has uplifting quotes painted on his bedroom walls that read: "Take chances, take a lot of them. Your mistakes make you who you are. You learn and grow with each choice you make. Be you and be okay with it."

The chance he's taking now might give him his old life back. He has no regrets, and just wants to be the best he can be.

"The way I have always looked at it since I got injured was eventually, something is going to get figured out to solve the issue. Things are going to be hard for a while, but they will work themselves out," Hanes said.

Hanes and his mom will return in late April from China. They say it could take weeks or even months to see any progress.


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