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HydroWorx & Extreme Home Makeover

HydroWorx & Extreme Home Makeover

On Friday, October 21, 2011, ABC aired one of the most touching, inspirational Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episodes to date.  Over a period of 168 hours in June 2011, the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team built Brian Keefer and his family a house perfectly suited to his special need: paralysis from the neck down. 

At the heart of the show was a $40,000 HydroWorx aquatic therapy pool, donated by HydroWorx to ensure Brian could continue his water rehabilitation whenever possible.

Brian Keefer, 23, a patient of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, became a quadriplegic in 2008 after a gymnastics accident. In a moment, he went from being an athletic college student to a quadriplegic; however, he never lost his zest for living life to the fullest. It was that attitude that drove him to begin rehabilitation at Kennedy Krieger, a facility renowned for its expertise in helping patients with neurological conditions regain as much mobility as possible. In Keefer’s case, physical, occupational and aquatic therapists focused their attention on helping the young man regain movement and function through cutting-edge techniques that include aquatic therapy in a HydroWorx pool.

Hydrotherapy For Neurological Conditions

Other patients with neurological conditions similar to Brain’s have benefited from intensive aquatic therapy; in fact, some have been able to walk either on their own or with supportive devices such as walkers.

At the crux of many of their successes have been the innate benefits of water therapy.  Clinical research has shown that patients with neurological disorders (i.e., spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease) can overcome some or most of their muscle weakness, muscle tone abnormalities, and coordination/gait problems by rehabbing in water.

Warm water aquatic therapy presents numerous advantages, including a sensation of weightlessly that takes up to 90% of gravity’s burden away from the patient.  Brian, who cannot move his arms freely on land, could move them on his own when submerged to above the shoulders.  Thus, as his arms become stronger and stronger, the hope is that he will slowly be able to use them for simple day-to-day activities.

HydroWorx pools, such as the 500 series model highlighted in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode, have adjustable depth floors and underwater treadmills to assist physical and occupational therapy professionals and their clients.  The innovative design provides incredible adaptability, essential for continuing hydrotherapy success.

Reactions To The Episode

Watching Brian and the Keefer family on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition reminds me of how lucky I am to work for a company that can impact people’s lives on a daily basis. Brian, you are such a strong man and an inspiration to us all. Keefer family, you are simply amazing.

Matthew Foss, HydroWorx West Coast Regional Director

“I never imagined working for a company that could change people’s lives. Brian Keefer, his family and the people at HydroWorx are an inspiration to me.”

Melissa Borak, HydroWorx Video and Media Coordinator

“Brian’s story touches our hearts for so many reasons. A chance accident could happen to any of us, and change our lives in an instant. What gives Brian’s story such power is what happened afterward. The commitment and sacrifice of his father without hesitation or complaint. The determination of his brothers to include Brian in their activities. And, most of all, the indomitable spirit of Brian himself: his determination to walk again. 

To see the testimony of the two men on the show, both quadraplegics, and now walking, and their admiration for Brian made me misty-eyed. One cannot help be in awe of the will of men who would not accept their doctor’s verdict, and in their personal triumph provide an inspiration to everyone else.

I can see why you wanted HydroWorx to be part of the Makeover effort. When I saw Brian floating on his back and, in the buoyance of the HydroWorx pool, able to move his arms, I cannot describe the astonishment I felt. You so want to root for this young man to succeed and regain the ability to move on his own. I am humbled by his effort, and grateful to have the opportunity to be part of a company that is helping him.”

Wayne, HydroWorx Partner

“What an inspirational/motivational person Brian is! You can see it in his eyes and contagious smile that he has the will and drive to walk once again. Now with our HydroWorx pool at his finger tips he can shorten that rehab timeline greatly!”

Ben Grinnell, HydroWorx Midwest Regional Director

HydroWorx At The Kennedy Krieger Institute

Keefer and his family weren’t the only ones amazed by the once-in-a-lifetime experience: Members of his Kennedy Krieger care team were also thrilled by the possibilities introduced by the show, whose popularity, along with Keefer’s incredible story, induced various manufacturers to donate items —including expensive equipment and amenities that most patients could never afford for their homes.

 Brian’s care team in the Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury gathered together and brainstormed over what kinds of therapeutic equipment would be ideal and best meet Brian’s current and long-term needs and goals. That equipment includes a bodyweight support harness that moves along a special track throughout parts of Brian’s home, allowing him to move independently and a voice-operated system that allows him to open and close doors and do other tasks through vocal commands.

Kennedy Krieger has two HydroWorx therapy pools at their Maryland facility.  Every day, their professional team of physical, occupational and aquatic therapists focuses their attentions on helping those with neurological conditions regain movement and function through cutting-edge techniques.

“With our HydroWorx pools, the options are virtually limitless when it comes to developing treatment plans for patients. We’re able to create completely individualized aquatic therapy sessions because of the flexibility to adjust the water depth, temperature, treadmill speed, and jet output in the pools.”

Christy Sachs, Manager, Aquatic Therapy Center at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Sachs adds that walking on one’s own is a goal for many spinal cord injury patients, like Brian, but it takes a tremendous effort and, of course, there’s no guarantee.  Working in his favor, though, is the fact that he has been given the best opportunity to regain as much movement as he can.  With a HydroWorx pool at his home, he can rehab frequently.

Where Is Brian Keefer Today?

Over 10 years removed from moving into his newly changed home, Brian Keefer has seen significant improvement.

Keefer has accomplished a lot since his accident in 2008. He graduated from Lock Haven University with a degree in recreation management.

After the accident, Brian only had some movement in his fingers, but now he has the ability to sit up and lean forward on his own while also driving his motorized wheelchair via a joystick.

Brian is now able to sit unsupported and wave, something he was unable to do following his accident.  To many, these are normal everyday actions, but to Brian the simple movement of his hand reminds him that he is making progress towards his ultimate goal of being able to walk again!

 In the pool, I’m free.

Brian Keefer


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