Matt Olson returned home Wednesday 199 days after the injury that left him paralyzed below his shoulders.

The onetime Totino-Grace standout hockey player suffered a severe injury to his neck and spinal cord in February after falling headfirst into the boards during a junior league hockey game in Chicago.

Olson has spent the last seven months in three different cities receiving care and undergoing rehab. Now the 20-year-old can rest and start a new routine in the comfort of his own home in Isanti.

“We've been waiting so long to make this journal entry, after 199 days Matt is now at home!” the family wrote on Olson’s Caring Bridge page. “He's moved into his temporary bedroom in the living room until we can move into the new house. We are so excited for this next chapter and to watch the rest of this journey unfold. Matt will continue with out-patient therapy at Courage-Kenny where he has been making steady progress. He is going to take some time to settle in and learn his new routine before deciding what is next for him.”

Olson was undergoing therapy at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley since mid-June and will continue to receive out-patient therapy at the facility. Olson underwent surgery and received experimental stem cell therapy in the month after his injury, and in April relocated to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a spinal cord injury rehabilitation program.

The Mayo Clinic explained Olson had broken bones in his neck and the spinal cord was pinched at the C-4 level, leaving him paralyzed below the shoulders, though he has some feeling in his biceps and forearm.

“It’s going to take time,” Olson said during his therapy at the Mayo Clinic. “It’s a slow process. I know that I’m going to get better. I just keep working on different things in therapy.

“I can still live my life the way I want to. My life is different, but I can still do the things I want to do. I can do almost anything I set my mind to.”

Dr. Ronald Reeves, a spinal cord injury specialist at the Mayo Clinic, said Olson has done a very good job making progress and learning to direct his care. Dr. Reeves added that Olson's experience as an athlete and awareness of his body likely provided a strong foundation to do well so quickly.

“We have been very blessed with the outpouring of support during this journey,” the Olson family wrote on the Caring Bridge page. “Matt has had a great team of medical staff, therapists and caregivers in Chicago, Rochester, and Golden Valley. We have met many wonderful people and have made many new friendships. Thank you to everyone that has helped us along the way and to everyone that has provided prayers and words of encouragement.”

 Photo courtesy of Mayo Clinic. 

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