♪♪ - I spend a lot of time imagining moving and remembering that feeling.
I used to be Kelsey the dancer, and now I'm Kelsey, the girl in a wheelchair.
That carefree person, that risk taker, I felt really far from her for a long time.
And that's changing for me now.
There's a clinical trial coming up in Minneapolis for quadriplegics.
I'm scared that I'm gonna do it and then I'm gonna be worse.
- Pain sucks but can be a birthplace of beauty.
announcer: "Move Me," now only on "Independent Lens."
[upbeat vocal music] ♪ ♪ [object clicks] [motor whirring] - [breathes deeply] I spend a lot of time imagining moving and... remembering that feeling.
Like, I wonder if it would just be easier to not have a memory of... a life that I miss and a life that I want.
It's like this pinprick on your heart.
- One, two, three.
- [sniffles] [hums] I used to be... Kelsey the dancer, and now I'm Kelsey, the girl in a wheelchair.
And yeah, I am in a wheelchair, but...
I just get put in this box, like this one-dimensional character.
It's like I'm being underestimated or something.
[soft dramatic music] - Here, look.
There she is.
- Hi, Dad.
- This is for you, honey.
Yes, we know you wanted to be here.
What are we doing now?
A little face powder.
Not too much.
We want to be discreet.
Okay, now, look-- turn around.
You're so cute.
Let me just-- - Mom!
- It's like a bathing suit.
- Is the camera on?
- Are you lying to me?
- No, I'm not.
♪ ♪ - [laughs] - We're filming her getting dressed.
Shoes are going on.
- All the blood's rushing to my head.
- Okay, perfume.
- [speaking indistinctly] - Okay.
- I'll just air myself out.
♪ ♪ I hope he likes this kind, though.
- [chuckles] Wow.
Do a little turn around.
♪ ♪ Here we go.
- Don't do this to me, Mom.
- Oh, be quiet.
I have to do this for your dad.
Okay, here she comes, a vision of loveliness.
- I'm gonna, like, fall down the stairs.
- Okay, that's all right, we'll get it on tape.
- [laughs] - Come on.
- Please don't take my picture.
- Can't--all right, I turned it off.
- All right, c--oh!
Here she comes.
Just come down.
- [speaking indistinctly] - What do you think?
What do you think?
- Very pretty.
- Okay, have a good time.
♪ ♪ [music box tinkling] ♪ ♪ You know, she didn't really believe that she wasn't gonna walk.
[water gurgling] She thought she was gonna walk out of there in three months.
And-- And so, you know, they were kind of telling her, and she didn't really believe it.
- She was sort of depressing to go see her.
And then I remember starting to see her, and she'd have a smile on her face, and I'd go, "Wow, this is better now.
I used to think she was faking it for me.
- She was.
She definitely was.
How's it going?
- You made it.
- I did.
I made it.
- What's going on with your zipper?
- What's wrong with my zipper?
Oh, I don't know.
How's it going?
It's colder than you-know-what out.
How do I get out of this thing now?
- Do you need Jenn's help?
Jenn, help him.
- Unzip that thing down, can you?
Will it go all the way down?
- There we go.
- All right!
- Now I'm just gonna zip it up again.
Are we really gonna go out?
You know why, Dad?
- 'Cause we're strong.
- We can do this!
You lifting weights today?
- You gonna train me?
- Sure, I'll be your trainer.
- Eye of the tiger?
- [whistling] - ♪ Boom, boom-boom-boom ♪ Will you grab my jacket?
- You can do this by yourself, right?
- Yeah, give me this part.
Give me this.
- Good, I like it.
Pull this one all the way down.
- This one?
- Yeah, you got to pull them both all the way.
Pull it all-- - Well, Jenn... - Okay, we'll be back.
[car horn honks] There's a clinical trial coming up in Minneapolis for quadriplegics.
- For electronic stimulation implant.
- Are you gonna do it?
- I don't know.
I'm kind of scared.
- Scared that it might work, scared that it might not work.
- Well, the only way you're gonna find out is to try it.
Why wouldn't you try it?
- I mean, what if something goes wrong?
What if I end up with more pain than I have?
- You have pain now?
I mean, it's always a risk, because it's a clinical trial, you know?
I mean, you are a subject to learn from.
- I mean, you have a risk of being paralyzed?
- [laughs sarcastically] - [chuckles] - The upside is, I get some movement in my-- I can wiggle my toes by myself again, you know?
I can feel my toes, maybe.
I can...go to the bathroom, maybe.
I don't know.
This one woman regained sexual function.
- Boy, I'd go for it.
- I know.
That's what I'm saying.
- [laughs] - Like, that in and of itself, I'm like, "Yes, please."
- I'd look at all the risks and talk to them and analyze it and... - Yeah.
- You know, you got to put the pros and cons, and you-- You know, life's a calculated risk.
It's the way it is.
- Sing your favorite song.
♪ I love my daddy, dee-dee-dee, dee-dee-dee ♪ ♪ I love my daddy like rock and roll ♪ ♪ Love my daddy, dee-dee-dee, dee-dee-dee ♪ ♪ I love my daddy like rock and roll ♪ ♪ Love my daddy, dee-dee-dee ♪ Here they go!
- My dad was that guy, you know, that brought a lot of joy and fun.
- Lean into the wind!
- You know, I just loved that.
I still love it.
[laughter] - Sing.
- And we shared this love for music.
♪ How I wonder where you are ♪ Our relationship and how we got to bond through that, it just grew within me and became my own thing too, you know?
[light music] ♪ ♪ I was defined by my body and being a dancer.
♪ ♪ I was ready to build a career and teach and start a dance company, and that's what I was doing when I got injured.
I'd finally had this, like, "Okay, dance is gonna be "a big part of my life for the rest of my life, and I'm ready to commit to that."
♪ ♪ It was the night before the Fourth of July.
[fireworks popping and whistling] You know, you're seeing old friends and swimming and having cocktails.
And it just started early, and it ended really late.
After bar close, I just kept going and went out onto the lake.
I remember sitting at the front of the boat and thinking, "I'm too [bleep] up right now.
I'm just gonna jump in."
[indistinct chatter] And I remember getting undressed and just, like, looking at the water and the moon on the water and... the sound, how quiet it was.
I was just completely intoxicated by everything.
And then I just remember stepping up onto the ledge.
[firework fizzes] And I just dove right in.
[high-pitched ringing] [water gurgling] [static crackling] When my head hit the sand, it just made this hissing sound.
[dramatic music] [hissing] ♪ ♪ I remember looking down at my body.
I just immediately felt detached from it.
[water gurgling] And I just remember trying to move and thinking, "This is how I'm gonna die," and also thinking... "I just paralyzed myself."
[muffled fireworks popping] [fireworks popping and whistling] Jenn's making me laugh.
- [laughs] - Okay.
My voice isn't the best right now because one of my vocal cords doesn't work.
But it will.
So here we are at the beautiful Miller-Dwan Rehabilitation Center in my... what looks like a dorm room, so yeah.
I'm here, and I'm gonna get better.
And it's crazy.
I don't know, man.
Life changes... really, really quickly.
[lock clicking, keys jingling] - Good morning.
[door clicks shut] - Morning, honey.
- Good morning.
- You want me to rock open the windows?
I love you too.
Don't go anywhere.
- [growls] - No construction today.
- Go outside and go potty.
- All right, you ready?
Okay, I'll be right back.
- [speaking indistinctly] All right.
One, two, three.
Booms, do you want your part there, or do you want it just straight back?
- We doing any dry shampoo?
I wonder if I could actually spray this.
- I'll hold the bottom so you don't spray it so, so low.
- No, I got to do it solo.
I got to do this.
- This is slippery.
I just really don't want to squirt myself in the face.
[groans] Where do you push?
Like...on the back end more, right?
- [laughs] - Okay.
- [laughs] - Yeah.
- Getting your old lady on.
- Heads up, I just-- I reorganized your jewelry.
- You did?
- Silver, gold, other metals.
I like that.
I kind of want to wear those again.
- I know, seriously.
I want you to wear them all the time.
Our daily two?
- Come here.
[smooching] - God, he is just so happy.
- Come here.
Why are you being so weird?
Oh, you're gonna go in your home now.
- All righty, then.
All right, bye, babe.
- Okay, bye.
- I'll see you Friday?
- I'll see you Friday.
- It's still not easy for anybody, particularly for her.
- She just was really close to giving up.
You know, when she first got hurt, you were just kind of, like-- kind of wanted to really just not let anything near that could hurt her anymore.
Just... - Well, it's frustrating, 'cause I couldn't fix it.
Daddies like to fix stuff.
I can't fix this one.
- What are you gonna do today?
- [coughs] I'm just doing it.
I'm practicing these two songs so I can play them without a cheat sheet.
- Do you feel okay right now?
CAT scan done tomorrow.
I'm nervous about it, and I'm nervous about getting the results.
And, you know, I'm nervous.
I got to be straight with you.
But it gives me some encouragement that your PCA's father had a fungus infection in his lungs, same symptoms I got.
I hope it's nothing worse than that.
- Were you mad after we got off the phone last night?
- You know, it's a constant challenge to try to not be angry and hurt, for me.
It's an ongoing situation at this point.
You drank too much, and you didn't use good judgment.
- Dad, you have to forgive me, though.
- I do.
I always forgive you.
But I'm still--you can still be angry about something and forgive somebody for whatever's happened.
Doesn't mean I don't love you.
- It's an all-out war battle.
It isn't even tag team this time.
They're crushing each other.
- I think it's hard for you to imagine what it's like to have your own child, 'cause you don't have one.
And all the hopes and dreams that you had for your daughter or son changed in one split second-- something that you never envisioned could ever happen.
Wasn't ever on your radar, even, not even close.
- Now back to the violence.
It seems that it's continuing at a harder pace.
- You're only as happy as your least happy child.
That's the truth.
And I watched you, particularly for the first two years after this accident, you know, really struggle with trying to figure out who you were again and to find your own reality and your own self.
And I know you still go through periods of that.
You've shared that with me, and I understand that.
You're sad, I'm gonna be sad.
- [sniffles] - So don't be sad.
I don't want to be sad anymore.
- [sniffles] - See?
You're smiling, so I'm okay with that.
[soft music] ♪ ♪ - It's hard to see... someone that...
I love and admire so much... Be disappointed in me... and wish that I wouldn't have done that and wish that I would have made a better decision, because he's right.
I should have, and I could have done better.
But I didn't, you know?
This chair puts up a wall between me and people that I love sometimes.
♪ ♪ [whistles] What up?
- How are you?
- I was gonna bring s'mores, but I thought that wouldn't be very quad-friendly.
- It's good to see you.
- Dude, is that nose hair coming out of your nose?
- He's like, "I don't remember getting invited."
- Dude, come on.
It's curled up your nostril.
Like, it's so long, it went up.
Can I go get the clippers?
It's gonna be on camera.
- Ooh, that would be fun.
- Clipping my nose hairs?
- Yeah, let's-- yeah, I should go do that.
- Oh, my God, he's doing it.
- I mean, you're my child.
- This is your fault, then.
- This is care right here.
- I can't handle this right now.
- Everything's my fault.
- Fix the fire.
- I'm gonna go cry inside for a minute.
- Can we use your able-bodied hands, please?
[laughter] Help us!
- You don't even have, like, a nose hair trimmer?
You just have trimmers?
- That's too long for a nose hair trimmer.
[razor buzzing] - Oh, my God.
Oh, my God.
- Just hold still.
- Hold still!
- It got itchy.
- Oh, dude, there's, like, eight of them.
- I feel like a new man.
- [laughs] - Yeah, you're like clean-cut Jesus now.
I've burned my legs like this twice.
I'm not going to let it happen a third time.
- I'm really good at not letting my legs get burned.
- Are you saying it's too hot?
- I just have to-- I thought you were gonna check with the poker.
That would have been memorable.
- Yes, it would've been.
- [sighs] - So Octo--when are you gonna start rehearsals for this October show?
- It's got to start pretty soon.
- Wait, what October show?
- "Cripple's Dance" at the Southern Theater.
I don't think I knew about this.
- At the Southern for a week.
- Kelsey, have you done any stuff like that?
- Like what?
- Performance like that since your injury.
- Performance since my injury?
- Was there conversation about you participating in that?
- I don't know that I'm gonna perform, but I want to definitely choreograph a new piece.
- Do you want me to perform?
- I don't know!
- What the-- - I'm not making assumptions, okay?
- What are you--what is this, "Do you want me to perform?"
- I just don't want to, like, miss the bar.
And there's even more pressure about missing the bar when I can't move 75% of my body.
- There's nothing more beautiful than the truth.
- And that's--to me, that's what "A Cripple's Dance" is.
Like, I'm taking the word "cripple" and turning it into a beautiful thing.
[groans] [music box tinkling] ♪ ♪ I can think about moving my toes all day long, and my brain sends the message, and then it stops at my injury.
And sometimes I'll get these, like, darts, like, shooting-- that feel like energy sort of, like, shooting down my legs, this "choo-choo-choo-choo" type of thing.
And I like that, 'cause it doesn't hurt, and it just makes me feel like my body's still alive in there, and I can hear it and feel it.
But sometimes it's scary, 'cause you don't know what's happening.
You just start questioning, like, "Am I gonna [bleep] myself?
Like, did I just fart?"
Like, you just start thinking, like-- you go through, like, all these scenarios of, "What's my body doing right now, and is it gonna lead to a really embarrassing moment for me?"
That part leads to some anxiety and humiliation and... planning.
- How many are you doing?
- Till it burns really bad.
You have to constantly be thinking ahead and creating this new dynamic between you and this thing that you're still attached to and you still have to love, even though you feel removed from it a lot of the time.
So you can feel it when it's on?
- I can tell it's on, yeah.
It's like wearing a corset.
- What does it feel like?
- Like wearing a corset.
It's really tight.
My battery pack is back here.
I can go higher... Or I can go lower.
- So, like, now you could just turn the settings on and have the muscles in your legs contract with the system.
- But you can't feel it at all.
- I mean, you can-- like I said, I'm aware.
- But to say I can feel it, no.
- How do you think it's changed your quality of life in-- like, what are your-- - I'm definitely more confident wheeling.
For me, just the balance was huge.
- You know?
- It would feel so good to be able to sit upright with my-- and have good posture again.
And what about sexual function?
- We're still working on that.
Now we're empty nesters, so we can work on it more.
[laughter] - If you want to be perfectly honest.
- 'Cause I heard through the grapevine that one of you had had an orgasm after... - Sandra--I was patient one.
She was patient two.
You noticed a difference with your bowel care?
- So I went from, like, an hour to about a half hour now.
- That's huge.
- That's so much of your life back.
- Oh, my God, I don't know what to do now.
- I don't want to be an infomercial, but do it, do it, do it.
- Especially talking with you, and I'm really excited to talk to Sandra now and... just to see a real human being whose life has been changed in such big ways.
- It's... - We'll walk someday, but... there's a lot of other stuff to finish first.
- Bye, Kathy.
- See you.
[door slams] - I'm hopeful with this clinical trial, but sometimes hope is dangerous, too, and I start to, like, question, like... is there, like, a healthy level of hope, you know?
Like, how do you ride that line of... Of not driving yourself crazy but, like, still... Like, reaching for something?
Oh, what a weird bathroom.
It's cute, though.
- [clears throat] - Am I gonna run over your toesies?
- It's very strange.
- Here, I got it.
What the [bleep]?
That's really funny.
Okay, well, we don't need to go there anyway.
They just, like, made a new highway straight to my bladder.
- Does it hurt?
- I can't feel it at all.
I mean, I can't feel anything from here down.
- Okay, so not amazing.
- So... [laughing] "So not amazing."
- But, like... - But it's definitely a perk.
- I'm gonna look out the window.
- There you go.
- [laughs] - I don't need you passing out on me.
- [laughs] - We got [bleep] to do, girl.
I like this old bathroom, though.
- It is kind of a quirky little thing.
- It's cute.
It's not accessible, but it's cute.
- So this part actually-- Are you okay with dumping this pee for me... - Yeah.
- In the toilet since I can't get to it?
- That's what I'm here for.
- Thanks, buddy.
So you can totally pee in there.
You just can't if you need to get onto the toilet.
- Need to get onto the toilet?
- So you can go in the stall?
- Like, I just peed in there, but-- and then she dumped my pee for me.
- Oh, that's-- that's sweet of her.
- It was a bonding moment.
- I didn't really dance before my injury, but being the lead singer in a band and being onstage, I've wanted to dance.
And so I took it upon myself to just start writing music that made me want to move.
And then, yeah, kind of like waves.
That was the catalyst to this project.
- I do left foot... - Okay, so I go-- - Right hand, left hand, right foot.
So we can go-- - And then you go back right after that.
- And then we punch back.
- And then this?
And like this... - I like what--I think Angie or someone was... - And then like this.
- I was wondering about, like, switching positions or... you know?
- Like, we could trade-- - We could, or they could.
- We could move diagonally toward them on this, maybe.
And then we'll stringy-dingy with them.
Or no, we do this-- or, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, my God, that sounded like it hurt.
[bodies thudding] - Yeah.
[floor squeaks] - Oh, jeez.
- I feel like this scurry across is gonna be awkward with the music, but let's feel it out.
You're on music duty?
- I don't know where's my phone.
[pensive music playing] ♪ ♪ - During the time that I was facedown in the water after the dive, I...opened my eyes, I was conscious, and it was all blue.
And I thought I was gonna float out to sea and die, drown.
And I had this overwhelming eerie peacefulness and acceptance when I kind of realized what was going on.
This piece that we're working on, I'm trying to capture those feelings.
♪ ♪ - Yeah, I'm interested in this whole idea of these building waves and water... - Mm-hmm.
- Becoming-- Like, having its own sort of personality within it and how it shifts from being... scary to calming and soothing-- this, like, ride that you went on, that we went on.
- All the way down.
[indistinct chatter] [van beeping] - Okay.
Where is this one going?
- Probably, like, right outside of that.
- You probably want to hook it right outside of my foot.
- Where your thumb is.
- But make sure the strap stays in.
- This stays?
- Push on that part, yeah.
- Yeah, there you go.
[indistinct chatter] - Are you tight?
- Hell yeah!
- Let's do it!
- You're not going nowhere!
- Holy hell.
All right, blue stretchy fabric.
I think I found some candidates, guys.
Mm, I don't know if this is stretchy enough.
- This one's stretchy, but I think this is maybe a little cheesy-looking.
That one looks more natural.
- Gabe, do you like-- Whoa.
- Let's check this one out.
- That aqua one?
- That's pretty.
- Do you want to come back to the cut counter, please?
[bleep] damn it.
- [laughs] - Yes.
- Oh, yeah, that's soft.
- Are you 32?
- How's that feeling?
[indistinct chatter] - I could sleep on this.
[soft music] - Yeah, that's lovely.
♪ ♪ [water gurgling] - Becoming disabled required, like, this whole new understanding of life.
♪ ♪ At least I had never felt like I had been put in a position where I would be made to feel like this world isn't made for me.
- One, two, three.
Oh, my God, I'm gonna fall, I'm gonna fall, I'm gonna fall.
[laughter] Onto me!
I'm pushing you, right?
- Which way do you want to go?
If I hold you and then... Oh, abs!
[laughter] - People, out of their periphery, see a chair, and so they don't even bother to look at the person.
That's just always a challenge to see that in other people and not let it become how I see myself.
I wasn't even able to say... "I have a disability; I'm a person with a disability," and not see it as a bad thing for a long time.
Can I borrow this magazine?
I want to take a picture of these beverages 'cause they look so good.
- Look at this-- pineapple sage sangria.
- Oh, that would be good.
- I know, right?
- I like anything sangria, though.
- Peach basil?
Oh, my God.
What's your name again, Jenny?
[thermometer beeps] I did not make a note.
Usually I read through the old notes so that I know what happened... - Mm-hmm.
- And how, you know, what happened.
How did you get to be where you are?
- Oh, do you need to know that information?
- No, I don't need-- no, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to.
- Do I have to talk about that?
- No, you don't.
- Okay, 'cause I don't really want to right now, if that's cool with you.
- Then you don't have to.
- Thank you.
I appreciate that.
- All right, I'll go grab him.
- Take care.
I want to steal this magazine.
You are Kelsey Peterson?
- Very nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you too.
I've heard good things.
Oh, well, thank you.
- My name is Dr. Idiculla.
It's like "in the cooler," if that helps you out.
- Yeah, I've heard people call you Dr.
- Oh, man, well... - [laughs] - You know, you can't choose your own nickname, so... - So I can do that?
- I'll take it.
You can take it.
- Okay, cool.
- What can I help you with today?
Anything in particular?
- So yeah.
I mean, I want to be able to do it all.
Like, I want to be able to shower, toileting, dressing, the whole thing.
- We have to have... - Life goals.
- A limited set of goals for this therapy session, anyway.
- But if we could-- - Like, I don't want to give you all of the goals.
Well, let's see what we got here in terms of our strength, sensation... - Okay.
- And everything else.
Squeeze my fingers if you're able to do it.
- [laughs] Yeah, right.
- Give them a good squeeze, best you can.
- [laughs] - No problem.
- Nothing with an extension there.
But you are able to bring the wrists up pretty nicely.
- So that's pretty excellent.
How much action do we have with the thumbs?
- Absolutely nothing.
- Just hanging loose, okay.
Do you still have sensation?
- In my pointer and my thumb.
- Pointer and thumb, okay.
- How about if you turn your head?
And now do the same thing.
Bring your head to this side here.
We'll go ahead and just move your hips a little here.
I'll go ahead and just take a listen to your heart and lungs.
That's why we're up here.
You can just breathe normally.
[dramatic music] ♪ ♪ [car horn honks] [engine revving] - I emailed David Darrow.
I'm, like, dying to have a conversation with him about this trial.
I want the miracle.
I want the whole kit and kaboodle.
- Of course you do.
Of course you do.
- I'm just gonna, like, pretend like that's what's gonna happen.
- You know-- - I have to.
It's not like I'm gonna expect it, but I'm just gonna, like, will it.
- I can't even begin to advise you, but, like... couple weeks ago-- or week and a half ago, I got a call from a woman who's writing a long-form piece in the journal "Nature."
Like, prestigious, you know, science journal.
- It's about this, about epidural stimulation and about--and in part, like, I think, kind of about how Darrow's study is a disruption.
Like, it's disrupting how everybody else has been doing it.
She was kind of trying to pin me and be like-- you know, like, "Do you tell your son to get this?"
Like, you know, like, "How excited are you?"
You know, blah, blah, blah.
- And I was like, "You know, "like, I want everything for my son.
Like, I want the whole thing."
On the other end is... [chuckles] There's only been 50 pe-- 40 people, 50 people who've had stimulators implanted.
In the studies, there's not that many people.
And so even you look at, like, Sandra or person X... are they anomalies?
[sobs] [sniffles] [bleep].
I knew this was gonna happen today.
- 'Cause I could just feel it... [sniffles] Creeping up.
Is that bad?
- No, it's good.
- [sniffles] Especially with, like, dancing again, it's just weird.
- And, like, trying to choreograph, I'm excited for the possibilities, and I know that, like, they're there as far as choreographing goes.
But... these first few rehearsals are just really...
They are like a punch in the gut or a slap in the face.
- So can you bring that?
Like, next time you go, can you bring that?
- And, like, how does that get-- how does that turn into the choreography?
How does that turn into what you're gonna evoke?
[pensive music playing] ♪ ♪ - ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh ♪ - There's a house in my neighborhood that on the fence... has painted a line from a Wendell Berry poem, and it says, "The impeded stream is the one that sings."
- [humming] Every time I go by there, I think of you, and I think of Gabe.
- [humming] ♪ ♪ The vulnerability that you have, the clarity with which you tell that story of how you feel, I mean, it is a singing.
- [humming] ♪ ♪ - I mean, pain sucks but can be a birthplace of beauty.
- [humming] ♪ ♪ - You know how you don't, like, know how to say what you want to say or what's gonna come out when you say it?
Monday before last, so, like, a week ago... My dad told us that he has... stage 4 lung cancer.
We're here with Kelsey Peterson, Superwoman!
You know, you have these dreams for people and the way that you saw their life possibly playing out, and that can change very quickly.
He certainly had dreams for me, and he had to rearrange those in his mind and in his heart.
And I'm now seeing him struggle with the plans he has and the things he wants to do and... the fear of those slipping away.
- Here's Poppy.
- There's my dad!
- Say, "Hi, Poppy."
♪ ♪ I'm at this point where I didn't think I would be, where I'm trying to figure out if I should participate in a clinical trial.
I just want your perspective on, like... what you think of the possibility of me doing that and... - Should I just start at the beginning?
I mean... - Yeah, really.
- So I didn't go into this medical trial expecting to walk.
I wasn't expecting anything, really.
- Why'd you do it?
- Initially, it was just, like, something to do.
- Like, "Maybe I'll get something, maybe I won't."
- "Maybe I'll get something back."
- I was, like, down to just be part of the process of learning.
When it started, things were going really well, and I was really responsive to the stimulation and to the technology.
They got me standing up, and the first time I stood, I stood for, like, 20 minutes.
The scientists were all mouths on the floor, like, "How is this happening?"
At the time, I was like, "This is awesome.
"I'm part of something so new and experimental.
Like, we're onto something."
Did you think that something bad might happen?
Was that on your radar at all?
- No, that was never-- I never thought anything bad was gonna happen.
After standing for a couple weeks, it started getting really spastic, and legs started just getting super jumpy, super jumpy, super jumpy.
I was living in agony all day nonstop every day.
It never ended.
It caused me to lose hope, and it caused me to be scared, and it caused me to lose, like, faith in people and medicine.
And it was just like, "What's the point?
I can't get any better now."
- Like, it made you wonder, like... - Yeah.
- "Do I want to live like this?"
So it's very difficult to answer the question of, "What would you do?"
- Because, one, your initial injury is a lot more severe than mine was.
And I don't know what you want to regain and what you want the ability to have.
And, like, of course we want everything, but, like, we all want these specific, like, little tasks that it's, like, "If I could have this, it would be this much better.
If I could have this, it'd be this much better."
Again, it's, like, this experimental thing where, in your case, you could have some miraculous recovery from it.
- Hi, Mom.
- How are you?
- I don't know.
I'm kind of scared.
I was all excited about doing this trial, and now I'm like-- I don't know what to [bleep] do, honestly.
- Because I'm scared that I'm gonna do it and then I'm gonna be worse.
- Well, I think that's a valid fear, but... you're the one that's gonna make the call, honey.
- I know.
I just need to be more informed, and, honestly, Xander's situation is really scary to me, and that's the last thing I want to happen.
- I believe... you will walk.
I believe that.
- I don't care about walking, Mom.
I mean, I do, but, like, I don't-- I don't want to just [bleep] walk.
I want to [bleep] dance.
I want to be able to do the sweet [bleep] that I used to be able to do.
[chuckles] [sniffles] You know?
- I think you're smart to just take your time and go through it until you're comfortable.
I just want... something so badly, you know?
I just want...
I just want something back.
Here, just grab my wrists.
- Oh, yeah.
- My legs are gonna be so-- they're gonna, like, fight you hard-core.
I didn't have sex for five years after my injury.
That is such a long time.
- You ready?
- [groans] We can do all that in the bathroom.
But I just didn't feel sexy anymore.
And I didn't feel like sharing my body with someone.
I didn't even feel like-- I was so scared that it was-- that sex was gonna even be fun anymore... Or that, like--"Am I gonna be enough for someone?
"Are they gonna have a good time?
Am I gonna have a good time?"
it's not like I can just sleep with someone now like I did before... and... be like, "Sweet, that was fun.
Thanks for the orgasm.
See you later."
Like, that's not happening now.
[water running] I still feel my sex drive the exact same way I did before.
I can even feel it internally, but, like, I can't feel touch.
There's a deep loneliness... that comes with not feeling.
You know, you miss... what touch brings you... And what movement brings you too, you know?
We're here, really, to feel and move.
[soft music] ♪ ♪ I don't want to say "losing my sexuality," but that's what it felt like.
Losing that was heartbreaking... Because now I feel like I live in this body, and I'm human, and I sometimes don't feel like it because of losing that.
I feel like it's this constant conversation of us being the same person in different places of our life.
- And so, like, it's me, like, letting go of you... - Yeah.
- And then, like, facing the world as a different version of yourself.
- ♪ You see my beauty ♪ ♪ On the inside ♪ ♪ But the standard you seek ♪ ♪ Is displayed outside ♪ - Boom, boom, boom, boom.
I could do more of, like, a-- What's after that?
- ♪ Yeah, these weak, bendy arms ♪ ♪ And the curve in my spine ♪ ♪ Show a defective asexual eternal child ♪ - Oh, my God, Gabe.
- I know, just-- - You're killing me.
I'm picturing you laying here for this part talking about... Sexuality, rolling me onto my side again... - Mm-hmm.
- Into, like, the fetal position.
And then, like, you go on your back and, like, push your hips up into the air.
- And then I did kind of like when you reached up with your hand too.
[indistinct chatter] [phone line trills] Hello.
- Hi, Kelsey.
How are you?
- I'm good.
How are you?
- I'm doing really well.
It's a beautiful day where I am.
The sun is shining.
- What made you decide to do it?
Like, what were you thinking when you were making that decision?
- I felt that the only risk by doing it would be possible infection because you're having surgery.
And I felt like if Dr. Darrow could do this and better my life even 10%, it would be worth it.
- You know?
- I mean, I know this is super personal, but, like, what about sexual function?
Like, have you noticed a change in that?
- It's not the same by any means... but definitely there is something.
So you can tell you're having an orgasm and you can feel it in a more pronounced way, like, a closer-to-normal way, but you just don't feel, like, the buildup like you would have before, necessarily.
- No, I feel the buildup.
That's the thing.
I do feel the buildup.
I feel the pressure.
It's definitely more work to get it, but it's there.
- And I definitely feel when it goes, because it's like a balloon popping, if you will.
What did you do when that happened the first time?
Were you, like, shocked?
[laughing] I was like, "What the heck?"
I actually started to cry.
- Oh, my God!
I would have totally cried.
- Yeah, I was like-- I couldn't believe it.
- I'm just, like, so curious as to how you... how you can, like, achieve that connection without the, like, holy grail of the orgasm.
- Yeah, I mean... you know, yes, sexuality or sex brings you connection, but there's so many other senses that we can connect to.
- And so I think you become more aware of those.
- That's cool.
- You know?
You know, I don't know, the smell of his breath, it can turn you on.
You know, it's another sense.
- And so I think those are the things that you have to pull on and you have to become more aware.
So I think your relationship becomes more acute, if you will, you know?
- Because-- - It becomes more sensual.
- [humming] ♪ ♪ I saw my dad in the hospital today.
- He's still in the hospital?
- He had to go back into the hospital.
- I know.
He starts treatment on Friday, which is 50/50... which is weird to even say that out loud.
But I mean, people can live for a long time.
- It's just hard to hear that the average life expectancy is five [bleep] years.
I'm like, "I don't want to know that number.
I don't want to hear that."
- And I definitely don't want to hear that if it doesn't work, it's around a year.
It's weird to, like, see these parallels, you know?
- Yeah, I was just thinking about, like, grieving... Grieving my body, like, the loss of my body.
- It feels like you're grieving a death, you know?
- You are... in so many ways.
- I don't feel like I can be the person I used to be in a lot of ways.
- I can't express myself the way I want to.
So it's like... - Right.
- How can I possibly feel like that person?
- At this point, I'm not chasing what I used to have, but I'm chasing those same feelings.
Like, those--the feelings that I got from, you know... both: Dancing and singing and playing piano.
- Like, I'm chasing those feelings because they can be found in so many different ways.
Bum-bum-bum, bum, bum.
Bee-dee, bee-dee, bee-dee, bee-dee, bee.
So it's, can you... show me?
♪ Can you show me ♪ Let's see.
♪ Can you show me how you ♪ ♪ Show me how you ♪ ♪ Lean on your own ♪ ♪ Broken ♪ ♪ Strings that fall ♪ ♪ Can you show me how you ♪ ♪ Do, do, do, do ♪ Connect, and then maybe we-- - Maybe it's like this.
Maybe it's like... [indistinct chatter] - Maybe Here?
- Not so hard.
Like, a... - Like, this is, like-- - Soft connection.
- Yeah, like, well, there's, like, strength here, right?
- Bring that left hand over her.
Like, come up onto your left knee.
And then sort of, like, jump.
- And then... and then something like this.
[indistinct chatter] - I think follow the--and boom.
- And then all the way.
♪ ♪ [soft dramatic music] ♪ ♪ [laughs] - [giggles] Okay.
- I know that every day, you wake up, and you got to start all over again.
I think there's a definite direction.
It may not be the one that you wanted.
But I'm sure glad and I know a lot of people are sure glad that... they're here to watch you.
But I just don't miss anything about you because you're just making a new... you.
[motor whirring] - Go, go, gadget legs.
It's gonna be okay, Will.
You're doing a great job, Will.
- Thank you.
- Everybody's really, really grateful for what you're doing.
- I hope you guys are all-- can I get you guys anything?
[light music playing] ♪ ♪ - Is this better?
- Is this better?
- All right, we thinking feet height, good?
Knees up, down?
- Yeah, now I just want to drive this bitch.
- ♪ La-da-da-da ♪ - [laughing] Look at her.
Okay, I got to get used to this.
- It's almost like she's done that before.
- Pump the brakes.
- Hey, wait, wait, wait.
Get up at eye level with me.
I remember the nurses transferring me into the chair.
That moment, I'll never forget-- first seeing this power wheelchair.
I mean, it's huge.
And I remember just looking at it, like, "You're--you got to be [bleep] kidding me."
- [laughs] Sorry.
- That's not fair.
And luckily, I was good at driving it right away.
So that was kind of cool.
She's so fast.
But... that was just, like, the first thing I saw was like, "This is now... going to define me in such a big way."
- Oh, Danny.
- Drive-by high five!
- Don't high-five her.
She's a damn loser.
- I'm not losing.
That's my new chair, [bleep].
[laughter] [light music] ♪ ♪ [laughter] - Okay, babe, flip me off.
[laughter] - Here we go.
[laughter] - I lived 27 years of my life in a completely different reality.
[laughter] You guys!
I feared that I would never feel like myself again.
♪ ♪ That carefree person, that risk taker...
I felt really far from her for a long time.
♪ ♪ - Big ones.
- And that's changing for me now.
Almost got it.
[laughs] - Hey, hey.
[instruments tuning] - Just don't let me hit my face on my knees.
all: ♪ I am poor ♪ ♪ But I am free ♪ ♪ Yes, I am poor ♪ - Whoa!
That's not working.
[indistinct chatter] ♪ ♪ [indistinct chatter] - You ready?
- [humming] - Let's feel that energy flow through all our hands.
One last big, deep breath.
- Let's do it.
- All right, we're gonna run the show twice.
How are you?
How are you?
It's good to see you.
- You too.
- So, like, what do you think someone like me or whoever participates could expect to see?
- Based on what we've seen so far, I think the expectation is, you'll have some... restored movement in your legs.
Your posture will be better.
Your bowel function will be better.
My hope: your blood pressure will be a lot better.
Sexual function, I don't know.
It's still a little bit stochastic.
You know, some people get it; some people don't.
- So if you were me, would you... would you do it?
- I don't know if I can put myself in your place, you know?
I see a lot of people like you.
I mean, I'll answer the question.
I think I would, you know.
Some people, they can't stand existing without a large amount of hope, and I think that's totally fine.
I think the question is... if you don't get what you want, is that gonna be harmful?
- Give it a good pull.
Make sure it doesn't get loose.
- [grunts] [grunts] [groans, sighs] [motor whirring] [bleep].
[motor whirring] Okay.
[grunts] [light music] ♪ ♪ Okay.
[groans] [exhales heavily] - Nice.
♪ ♪ Yeah!
♪ ♪ Okay.
[object clacks] [seat whirring] [indistinct chatter] - Oh!
- But I will be doing it Sunday evening.
- How's it going?
- Hey, Kels!
- Hi, friends.
Gabe, you cut your hair!
- She cut it yesterday.
- You cut, like, a lot off of it.
- It looks really good, doesn't it?
How are you?
- I'm not great at doing other people's makeup, but I will try.
- I'm actually kind of nervous today.
- I'm nervous too.
[indistinct chatter] [dramatic music] ♪ ♪ As much as I wish that I could take this injury away, I've really had to open myself up to the fact that... there are some really beautiful things that have come from the mistake that I made and this injury.
♪ ♪ - ♪ You said, "I just want to be your friend" ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ If only you could see what my body could have been ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ I was six feet over, built with dancing muscles ♪ ♪ They would risk my pain ♪ ♪ Just to hear your thunder roll ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ The thunder roll ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ You see my beauty on the inside ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ But the standard you seek is displayed outside ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Yeah, these weak, bendy arms ♪ ♪ And the curve in my spine ♪ ♪ Show a defective asexual eternal child ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ But I'm so much more ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ I'm so much more ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ I'm more ♪ ♪ But I'm free ♪ ♪ Yes, I am more ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ But I am free ♪ ♪ Yes, I am more ♪ ♪ But I am free ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Yes, I am free ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Ah, ah, ah ♪ ♪ ♪ [cheers and applause] - The first performances of "A Cripple's Dance" went so well, and it was so fun... [cheers and applause continue] Other than the fact that my dad didn't get to go.
Wasn't the same not having him in the audience, hearing his voice.
He always would yell my name before the lights came up: "Go, Kels!"
I just channeled him the whole time.
I could feel him onstage with me.
[soft music] ♪ ♪ And then Monday came around... And my brother Nick called me and Schuyler and had to tell us... that our dad was dying.
♪ ♪ - [breathing sharply] ♪ ♪ - I just held his hand and... And just thought about the light inside of him... And it growing.
[water gurgling] ♪ ♪ And it felt like he was telling me it's okay.
♪ ♪ I've never seen someone die.
It's the hardest thing I've ever done.
When he died, I all of a sudden felt his sadness and anger.
It feels like it's sinking into my body.
And I thought he was angry at me.
[voice breaking] And I don't think he was.
I think he was just angry at my injury and what it took from me.
And I just finally understood why we had that space between us that was never there before.
- Kelsey, you gonna go swimming today now?
- [shouts indistinctly] - Hey, Kels, turn around and wave to Daddy.
Kelsey, wave to Daddy.
- Okay, so do you need me to lift her butt?
- Okay, yeah.
One, two... both: Nope.
- What if we swivel to the side and do it?
All right, okay.
- [grunts] What do you think about me possibly doing this clinical trial?
[laughter] - I would go with your gut... not what everybody else tells you.
I will support whatever you decide, 'cause I know you have some fears.
Although I have to say that I think you're in a place now where if the results were... Not what you wanted or had expected... that you are... in a place where you would accept that.
both: One, two, three.
[laughter] - Okay, ready?
I've lost things that I really thought defined me.
- I knew you'd do this.
- And I'm really trying to... create a different reality without those things.
Am I moving?
- Yes, you are.
♪ ♪ I will always want my body back, but the closer I get to acceptance, the more free I am.
And so I have to let those two things coexist.
♪ ♪ - Can I sit up?
Here, sit up.
♪ ♪ [crying] ♪ ♪ [object clicks] [motor whirring] [dramatic piano music] ♪ ♪ - ♪ Drifting on the ocean ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Floating facedown ♪ ♪ My lungs were bound ♪ ♪ I could hear their voices ♪ ♪ But when I felt around, you were silent ♪ ♪ You were my whole world ♪ ♪ Young one, you hold my motion ♪ ♪ I wanna swim by your side ♪ ♪ Explore a thousand islands ♪ ♪ You're untied ♪ ♪ Now you're lost ♪ ♪ Yeah, this freedom comes with cost ♪ ♪ But, love, you will stand tall ♪ ♪ And let the waves become your altar ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Yeah, this freedom comes with cost ♪ ♪ But, love, you will stand tall ♪ ♪ And let the waves become your altar ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh, ooh ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ oh, oh, oh, oh♪ ♪♪