Paralyzed Disney World Cast Member Returns to Work With the Help of a Medical Marvel

declan graham in the HAL rehabilitation machine at brooks facility

Declan Graham, a 22-year-old Cast Member, worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, where he experienced a terrible motorcycle accident after leaving work two years ago in May. Specifically, after a car struck Declan, he hit a guardrail at 40 mph, shattering his spin and breaking seven ribs, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

animal kingdom entrance

Credit: Disney

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In addition, the Walt Disney World employee suffered punctured lungs, and the driver left him alone at the scene until emergency services arrived. As a result, Graham spent six months in recovery at the hospital and at a specialized rehabilitation facility, undergoing a new type of experimental treatment known as HAL.

HAL stands for Hybrid Assisted Limb, a 40-pound piece of medical technology created by the Cyberdyne company. The device works with users experiencing mobility issues and paralysis via electrode stimulation along 18 points on the body, sending nerve signals to the brain.

Declan Graham Returns to Work After a Devastating Spinal Cord Injury | Brooks Rehabilitation

Credit: Brooks Rehabilitation

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Furthermore, in cases of stroke, brain injury, or spinal cord injury, the robotic machine can actually assume what the patient’s brain wants and amplify that decreased signal, reteaching the body how to move. Famously, the machine-assisted rock star Ozzy Osborne after a back injury.

Of course, because Florida only has two HAL locations, Jacksonville and Kissimmee, the service is in high demand through Brooks Rehabilitation, where Declan himself received treatment. On the Cast Member’s success at learning to walk again, Tom Langer, Brooks Rehabilitation Outpatient Regional Director, said:

We found that when you bring the highest level licensed clinicians with the highest level technology, you have amazing outcomes with the patients. And Declan is just a testimony to that. Taking those neurotransmitters from the brain and bringing them down to the lower extremities to allow somebody to walk again when perhaps they’ve been told that they’ll never get out of the wheelchair. It’s pretty amazing technology.

Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

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Due to the treatment’s success, Graham has returned to work at Animal Kingdom Park, something which he told Fox 35 Orlando he always knew would happen, so long as he remained “confident and positive and faithful.” Next time you visit Walt Disney World, if you happen to spot Declan, make sure to wish him well!

About Spencer Johnette

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the Walt Disney Family Museum halls and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @gothelsflower.