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Finishing law school, forging ahead.

Ed Bernatavicius, attorney

One week before his college graduation, Ed Bernatavicius was the innocent victim of a drive-by shooting that paralyzed him from mid-chest down. After weeks of intensive care at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Ed was transferred to Magee.

For that, at least, Ed was lucky.

Since 1978, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital has partnered with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to form the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center of Delaware Valley. This federally-designated model center is one of only 16 centers in the nation that provide coordinated, lifetime care for people with spinal cord injuries. So Ed's rehab team not only had serious expertise, they had the experience that comes from treating more than 2500 patients with spinal cord injuries.

At first, he couldn't move his arms.

When Ed came to Magee, he was bedridden, could barely raise his head and was totally dependent on others for his care. Later, even when he was helped into a sitting position, he would slump from dizziness. Months of intensive physical therapy followed, augmented by psychological counseling and teaching sessions that helped him manage activities of daily living, from bathing to dressing himself.

Peddling his way back home.

After his discharge as an inpatient in late summer, Ed continued his rehab at Magee's Riverfront outpatient center. He used a computerized electronic bicycle with electrodes attached to his legs to stimulate his muscles and allow him to move and push the pedals. This form of functional electrical stimulation improves cardiovascular health, tones muscles, and reduces the risk of complications and other health problems stemming from spinal cord injury.

Ed had done well at Magee. Now it was time to move on.

Soon he was learning how to transfer from his wheelchair into an automobile, and how to drive with hand controls. All the while, however, Ed wondered if he could ever fulfill his dream of becoming an attorney. Jerry Segal mentored and encouraged Ed to pursue his goals.

In the fall of 1995, he entered Villanova Law.

Despite the effects of his spinal cord injury, including chronic pain, Ed graduated in 1998, and was chosen to be the student speaker at commencement. His undergrad alma mater, Lynchburg College in Virginia, also asked him to speak at their commencement ceremonies. Later, he won a "Rehabilitation of the Year" award.

After serving as Law Clerk to a Superior Court Judge in New Jersey, Ed is now a partner in a New Jersey law firm specializing in bankruptcy. He is the lawyer-and the person-he always wanted to be.