‘A day on the lake changed my life’

U-M student continues recovery, encourages water safety

“I pretty much remember everything,” says 20-year-old Taylor Janssen about the July 2015 day that changed his life. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business student dove into the lake by his house after a volleyball, but a shallow spot in the water made for a much more complicated day.

Taylor’s friends pulled him out of the water, called his dad and they were on their way to the hospital, where U-M neurosurgeons worked to stabilize his cervical injury.

“I just went out for a day on the lake, and it changed my life,” Taylor says.

Taylor’s dad, Mark Janssen, now looks at the risks people take in a different way than he used to.

“It just takes one mistake to alter your life forever,” Mark says.

Nine months after surgery, Taylor’s gotten used to his new daily routines, his wheelchair, and a full schedule of physical therapy and occupational therapy. Luckily, he has a lot of support from his family and fraternity brothers, and he’s finishing up his first online class since the accident. Taylor’s also re-learning the daily activities he used to take for granted, like shaving his face, brushing his teeth and fixing his hair.

“What’s most exceptional in Taylor is his example of how to adapt to the hardships that life can unexpectedly throw at us,” says Frank LaMarca, M.D., Taylor’s surgeon and the chief of spine surgery. “He had a great attitude and a strong support system around him.”

Next up for Taylor? Moving back on campus in the fall – he’s already picked out an accessible apartment.

Take the next steps:

  • Learn more about spinal cord injury: Neurosurgeon Shawn Hervey-Jumper, M.D., explains how the spinal cord is like a highway, and a spinal cord injury is like a traffic crash.

Clinical-Neurosciences-signature-verticalThe University of Michigan’s multidisciplinary clinical neurosciences team is made up of more than 70 nationally recognized neurologists, neuroanesthesiologists and neurosurgeons. Leading the way in brain, spine and nervous system care for close to 100 years; patients have access to services that can be found at only a handful of places; as well as innovative treatments with the latest research. Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Health System have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report numerous times for excellence in patient care.