Profiles in Inspiration

Making a Difference for the Injured and Disabled

We're proud to be innovative advocates for victims at NLE Law, and we're proud to have helped many of our clients make a lasting difference in the world. These are stories of people who looked beyond their own injury or disability and fought for the rights of others.

Protecting Young Athletes - Zackery Lystedt

In May 2009, then-Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed the toughest return-to-play law in the nation. Since then, similar laws have been enacted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But that law didn't begin in Olympia. It began with one brave player in a middle school football game nearly three years earlier.

In October 2006, Zackery Lystedt was a star football player who fell to the ground and hit his head near the end of the first half of the game. Zackery was pulled from the game for the remaining few plays in the first half, but he was sent back onto the field to begin the second half. Near the end of the game, he sustained another hit to the head and began to complain of severe pain, yelled that he couldn't see, and collapsed on the field.

Zackery's road to recovery was long and difficult. For two months, he was in a vegetative state. It took nine months for him to speak again and 13 months before he could move his fingers. After 20 months, he could eat on his own, and his progress continued from there with intensive personal training, acupuncture, swimming and walking.

The Lystedts were, understandably, shocked and unprepared for what happened, but they channeled their pain into something greater. In 2006, concussions were rarely discussed in the context of youth athletics. By 2009, the Lystedts' advocacy had ignited a firestorm, and Zackery himself testified before the Washington State Legislature in support of legislation. This led to the enactment of the Zackery Lystedt Law, which requires youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion to be immediately removed from play and not returned until cleared in writing by a medical professional. "When in doubt, sit it out."

Zackery and his parents, Victor and Mercedes Lystedt, continue to be strong advocates for brain injury awareness, concussion safety and return-to-play standards, and they have earned wide recognition for their work. In the words of many parents: "If it wasn't for you, Zack, I don't think my kid would've been safe."

Advocating for Spinal Cord Injury - West Livaudais

West was passionate about service long before he became a client of NLE Law. He worked with Medical Teams International in Guatemala for three years before breaking his hip in a truck accident. He returned to Portland to be near his family during his treatment.  He was given an epidural catheter - a needle in his spine to help control pain and get him through physical therapy.

Unfortunately, West developed an epidural abscess that left him permanently paralyzed.  In the aftermath of his injury, West and his family were left to deal with extensive trauma.

Moreover, West found that he had a great deal of difficulty connecting with others who had similar injuries. He found that there were no resources available in the Portland area for spinal cord injury survivors.

With help from Fred Langer, Aaron Engle and the team at NLE Law, West made a recovery that allowed him to channel his passion for helping others into a cause that is now near and dear to his heart. West completed his Master's in Public Health, got married, bought a house, and founded a nonprofit, Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection (Oregon SCI).

Oregon SCI is a "community-based support network that empowers SCI survivors and their families." Their goal is to leverage community social capital to promote education, health, advocacy, self-reliance and awareness to reduce obstacles and help people living with spinal cord injuries thrive. For example, the organization helps survivors learn about services and resources, provides links to durable medical equipment and coordinates a monthly meetup in Portland.

Unfortunate circumstances changed West's life forever, but he was able to channel his compassion and energy into making a difference for others.  In West's own words, "Oregon SCI gives people a home once they've been discharged, because navigating the world outside the hospital in a wheelchair is challenging." According to West, connecting with other spinal cord injury survivors is "probably the quickest way through that transition from where you were to feeling more independent, more stable, and hopeful."

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