Shawnee teen’s family thankful for homecoming after paralysis rehab

SHAWNEE, Kan. -- A new beginning for a standout high school baseball player paralyzed in a diving accident.

Seventeen-year-old Nolan Sprague was hanging out with friends, back in August, before the start of the school year. He dove into a neighborhood pool and broke his neck in the process.

Sprague has spent the last month and a half at a rehabilitation hospital in Denver. On Sunday, he came home.  He met up with friends and family at Strike Zone Baseball in Shawnee.

"I feel lucky, and that seems kinda weird to say, but I feel very lucky that he's one, alive, and two, that he's still him," Nolan's mom, Carmen Sprague said.

The Shawnee community rallied around the pitcher after his accident by raising more than $140,000 for his medical expenses.

"To me it just shows the heart of people," Nolan's dad, Kevin Sprague said.

The money allowed him to get treatment at Denver's Craig Hospital in their Spinal Cord Injury program. A team of 20 people helped him rehab, and stay on track in school.

"He's already mad at us because we're like - no, you cannot go out with your friends today," Carmen Sprague said. "It's too soon, but he's ready."

The start of independence that doctors at first didn't know he could have.

"They expected him to be in a power wheelchair for the majority of his life, and occasionally be able to use a manual, and he rarely uses the power chair," Kevin Sprague said.

However, Sprague, the consummate athlete, wouldn't give up.

"It gives so many of us that outlet that we're all looking for that we had in our previous experiences," said Tony Durham, who coaches wheelchair rugby at Midwest Adaptive Sports.

It's something Sprague has been incorporating into his rehab at Craig.

"Unfortunately, he really loves it, so it's a little bit scary to me," Carmen Sprague. "A little bit scary to grandma. Grandma watched it and she was like - oh, no."

"You can be a highly competitive athlete, you can have a family again, you can have everything you wanted before," Durham said.

For now, the Sprague family is just working towards normal and celebrate Thanksgiving as a family.

"Very thankful to be back here to be able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family, friends," Kevin Sprague said. "To get in just a few days early so we can settle in. It's a true blessing to be able to do that."

Sprague's family said he's started to have some feeling in his chest and arms, but limited movement. Nolan is expected to start back at school in January after an evaluation, and graduate on time this spring.