SUU student, former paraplegic climbs Mount Hood

Jul 12, 2023, 6:24 PM | Updated: 7:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – A Southern Utah University student is celebrating his recent climb on Mount Hood in Oregon just a little over a year after suffering a life-changing injury.

If you want to climb a mountain you’ve got to start with the first step.

Vishal Shukla did just that with small steps.

“You know if I can’t move my hands at all, can I at least try twitching my finger?” he explained. “That evolves into can I completely move my finger? That evolves into can I actually grab something and not let go of something?”

His journey started during spring break one year ago when he caught a big wave while he was body surfing near his hometown in California.

“Just another fun time on the beach with my friends. So instead of propelling me forward, it just pushed me up and made me crash down and scorpioned pretty hard,” he explained.

That’s when he became a paraplegic.

“When I did start taking those first steps again, the very first steps – it was just like ten feet,” he said.

They were painful baby steps. The progress was slow.

Most of them happened at the neuro-specialty rehabilitation unit at Intermountain Medical Center.

Shukla said, “We definitely did a lot here. Stairs right? First time walking up and down steps again.”

It’s also where he got the idea to climb Mount Hood. He could see Mount Olympus but it wasn’t big enough.

Instead, not more than a year later Shukla climbed Mount Hood the highest peak in Oregon.

Wednesday, he returned to the rehabilitation unit at Intermountain Medical Center to say thanks.

Physical therapist Peter Spence said, “I think that we have a lot of success as therapists and Vishal is definitely one of the big ones.”

Spence said Shukla’s story is, to say the least, inspiring.

“Nobody worked harder. He was asking for more therapy daily and just made progress at a very quick rate,” Spence said.

Shukla showed during the therapy that if you’re willing to push against the grain you might find yourself reaching great heights.

“A lot of work, but a lot of luck as well,” Shukla said.

He has his sights set now on running. He’s also raising funds for Neuroworx, a nonprofit in Sandy where he did some of his outpatient therapy.

You can donate to Neuroworx here.

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SUU student, former paraplegic climbs Mount Hood