Doctors say stem cell therapy could help paralyzed hockey player

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Matt Olson is a Chicago Cougars hockey player who suffered a serious spinal cord injury during a game last month. The 20-year-old has been at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital ever since.

Now, for the first time, Matt's parents and his neurosurgeon spoke about his prognosis and the incredible support they have received from the Chicago hockey community.

"We didn't know how much he was touching people out here, but we soon found out,” said Matt’s mom Sue Olson.

Doug and Sue Olson live in Minnesota, but have been at Matt's side ever since the Chicago Cougars captain was injured in a game while hustling for a puck last month. They say the support they are receiving is overwhelming.

"The prayers and the support. asking us what do you need, what can we get for you,” Sue said. "He’s had a very devastating injury. Currently he can't use his arms or legs."

Matt’s neurosurgeon, Doctor John Ruge, says at first he believed Matt's spinal cord was severed. Thankfully, it was only compressed, which is good news for Matt's recovery.

"His spinal cord right now is a very good environment to recover to the best that it will recover,” Dr. Ruge said.

But recovery will take time, and millions of dollars.
"He’s already started some physical therapy, and it's not a pleasant experience,” Sue said. "He musters his strength. The same attitude he had on the ice he has now."

Matt’s parents aren't ready to talk about the details of his accident, but they do say this unexpected event has strengthen the bond they share with not only matt, but his older brother too.

"We have always been a very close family. If anything it's brought us close than we were before,” mom added.

Matt grew up in Minnesota, and the hockey community in his home state has rallied to support the stand-out defenseman by raising money for what will likely be millions of dollars in medical bills over the course of his lifetime.

As for his prognosis, Matt's doctors are hopeful that cutting edge stem-cell therapy will give him an advantage. But it's still early and he's got a long way to go.

"He’s on a ventilator. Every aspect of his care is being delivered. It’s going to be a long road for him,” Dr. Ruge said.

Matt's family set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the immense cost of Matt's medical bills. If you'd like to help, visit GoFundMe.