Injured Officer’s Speech Improves During Virtual Training Sessions

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ST. LOUIS – A local man is living proof that at-home workouts during the pandemic can not only be effective, but they can also lead to huge breakthroughs.

That’s the case for Ryan O’Connor. The former Arnold police officer is making remarkable progress during his virtual training sessions with the Disabled Athletes Sports Association.

“DASA has done so much with reminding us that there are no limits,” Barbara O’Connor, his wife said.

O’Connor is recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound from December 2017. A burglary suspect had shot him in the back of the head.

Doctors were unsure whether the husband and father would survive.

His recovery has been marked with some setbacks, but also with huge milestones.

With the assistance of DASA, he’s been able to regain strength that was once not possible.

There has been a lot of change in his right arm, which has begun to start moving in a way that was never expected.

The physical strength is just one aspect of O’Connor’s progress.

He’s also beginning to speak more.

“When he first came to us, he could say about 3-4 sentences or words. And now, he can hold a conversation with me. That’s a huge, huge thing that I’ve seen,” Kimi Kemp, DASA Adaptive Training Director, said. “We do focus on getting physically better. But we also focus on getting mentally better.”

O’Connor has been meeting with DASA for about seven months.

Many of the clients have physical disabilities post-rehab or when their physical therapy runs out, or when their progress begins to plateau.

O’Connor’s sessions include lifting, strength and conditioning, and cognitive training.

His family is amazed by his progress with his body and mind.

“DASA has been a huge part of getting him to talk, also while he’s exercising. His speech is definitely coming along. He’s more expressive. He’s finding a lot more keywords. Becoming a lot more conversational,” his wife, Barbara, said.

In recent weeks, the training sessions have gone virtual.

“It’s because of the virus. They closed the gym,” O’Connor explained.

The hour-long virtual training sessions offer a variety of benefits, Kemp said.

“It’s very beneficial socially, to still see us, especially for a brain surgery. We are there, still three times a week, seeing him and talking to him. Directly and working him out physically and mentally,” she said.

O’Connor said he misses his workouts at DASA’s facility in St. Peters. But said he is grateful for how far he’s come. He said his progress through DASA has taught him an important lesson:

“Don’t stop believing,” said Ryan O’Connor.

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