Paralyzed officer, Mark Dodez, walking again through physical therapy

Rapid progress surprises Mark Dodez and doctors

AKRON, Ohio - Former Springfield Township police officer Mark Dodez continues to defy the odds.  Through physical therapy at Summa Akron City Hospital, Dodez, who is paralyzed from the waist down, is making remarkable and rapid progress.

Dodez invited NewsChannel5 into his Canton home and allowed our cameras to capture his determination during an outpatient therapy session.

The results were amazing. Mark pushed himself out of his wheelchair and used a walker to walk about 100 feet.  His personal record since the accident is 158 feet.

"They (the doctors) told my wife, 'one in a thousand chance' of me walking and I'm walking," Dodez said.

On March 31, 2011, Dodez was searching for evidence in a case along Arlington Road, when a drunk driver in a pick-up truck struck the officer.  That driver, Michael Plemons, was sentenced to six years in prison two weeks ago.

To a certain extent, Dodez remains a prisoner in his own home. He sleeps in an uncomfortable hospital bed in his living room and he had to remove a door to navigate around a tight bathroom.

"I can get in there, but it's such a small space that doing anything in there is really difficult," Dodez said.

Dodez hopes his hard work will allow him to walk unassisted one day.

He uses his daughters, 5-year-old Jill, and 3-year-old Lara, as his inspiration.

"I'll walk them down the aisle one day. Yeah, when they're in their 40s," Dodez said while tickling Lara.

Dodez goes to physical therapy three times a week and his workout regiment includes stretching, weight training, walking with a walker and using an elliptical machine. Sometimes, the pain is too much. 

"Sometimes, I've got to stop what I'm doing because the (leg) spasms are so bad that I can't continue," Dodez said. His therapist, Joni Rapp, said Dodez is working at  "110 percent of his capacity."

"He's shown some great gains, walked a lot further and gained a lot of strength, so it is amazing how much he has been able to do," Rapp said.

Dodez said he feels blessed that function is slowly returning to his legs. In recent weeks, he said he has gained more feeling in his right leg and more movement in his left leg.

Next Monday, doctors will implant medicine on his spine to help control the spasms and loosen up his legs.

"If that works, that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for me," Dodez said.

Mark's wife, Lisa, is moved by her husband's determination and said she gains new hope watching his progress.

It was Lisa that stood before news cameras in April and said, "The surgeon explained that Mark has 0.0001 percent chance of ever walking again." Now that Mark has proven the doctors wrong, Lisa believes anything is possible.

"There may not even be words to describe how it feels.  It's quite amazing," Lisa said.

In the meantime, Mark continues to focus on future goals:  To get down on the floor to play his daughters and walk them to the bus stop.

"Everything is happening so quickly and we don't know where it's going to end," Dodez said.

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