Earlier this year, 20-year-old USF student Christopher Bastien fell from a third-floor balcony at The Edge apartments near UCF.
The fall shattered Christopher’s vertebrae and severed nerves in his body. Surgeons gave him only a 2-percent chance of ever walking again.
John Bastien, Christopher’s father, said the accident occurred while his son was visiting a friend near UCF.
“Chris was at a friend’s apartment. He wasn’t feeling well; he lost his balance and fell 40 feet from the balcony,” John said.
After a surgery in which titanium rods and screws were inserted to stabilize his spine, Christopher regained a great deal of his back movement. Despite the surgery, his circulatory system slowed significantly, and he subsequently had minimal sensory functions in his legs.
Still, there is concern Christopher will not regain full lateral movement, and additional surgeries may be necessary. He now participates in physical, occupational and recreational therapy every day at the Shepherd Center’s Day Program in Atlanta, Georgia.
On the Facebook and GoFundMe pages titled “Stand With Chris,” Christopher’s aunt, Mary Bastien Flack, has provided updates on her nephew's recovery to followers since July.
“Having doctors tell you that you have little chance of ever walking again weighs heavy on a 20-year-old,” Mary said on the GoFundMe page. “Little things he used to take for granted, like using the restroom or getting into a car, now are long and laborious activities.”
Christopher, now bound to a wheelchair as he recovers, has put his studies on hold as he relearns how to perform everyday tasks. His father said being confined to a wheelchair and a hospital room is extremely difficult for his son, who is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman.
“It’s very tough for such an active 20-year-old to be impacted by paralysis. The financial costs are staggering even with insurance,” John said.
After an injury, the spinal cord shuts down, and it can take anywhere from eight weeks to one year for proper functions to return.
Christopher is doing everything he can to maximize the 2-percent chance the doctors gave him, and as a next step, his family is trying to enroll in a stem cell project.
Despite all the challenges of recovery, John said his son remains confident and optimistic that he will walk again. In fact, Christopher has vowed not to shave again until he walks.
Cody Fishman, a junior UCF interdisciplinary studies major, is one of Christopher’s friends from home and said the recovery not only serves as a physical ailment, but a mental one as well.
“Whether he can walk again or not, Chris needs to be mentally strong now. I hope he finds the strength to do so,” Fishman said.
With the help of family and friends, Christopher is making progress, and supporters have helped raise more than $10,000 through the GoFundMe campaign.
“Chris would like to thank all the people who have supported, prayed and wished him well. It is a tough road, but through the tremendous outpouring of support, Chris is making it,” John said on behalf of his son.
For more information and updates on Christopher’s recovery, visit the “Stand With Chris” Facebook and GoFundMe pages.
Rosie Reitze is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.