Standing tall through physical therapy

Guy LaRue shares his story of healing

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Guy LaRue stands tall today, thankful for the ability to move on his own two feet.

The Washougal football player was riding a quad in the sand when he rolled it and broke his back at the age of 14. He had four vertebrates fused, and two rods and eight screws placed into his spine.

LaRue spent the last month of his freshman year at Washougal High School in a wheelchair. There would be no more football. Doctors told him he might never walk again.

“My life before I broke my back was nothing but school and sports. I’d be out the door first thing in the morning and wouldn’t come back home until late at night,” LaRue said. “This took the biggest part of my life and told me you’ll never do it again.”

Through physical therapy three times a week with Washougal Sport & Spine co-owner Steve McCarthy, LaRue beat the odds. His back healed to the point where he was not only walking again, but playing football during his senior year of high school.

“Guy has been a pleasure to work with,” McCarthy said. “You wouldn’t believe the maturity he had after such a traumatic event. The smile you see on his face right now is the same smile he had when he first came in here in a wheelchair. If he could do it, we would throw it at him and he took to it. That’s why he’s functioning today, because he works his butt off.”

LaRue returned to the sport he loved and delivered. His first pass in a game was a touchdown. Washougal beat Hudson’s Bay 50-0 that day. LaRue felt on top of the world.

“The only thing I wanted to do was walk and run and play football when everybody said that I wouldn’t,” LaRue said. “I proved everybody wrong, but if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t.”

LaRue played five games that season, but the hits started to take a toll. So did the realization that his life was in danger every time he yelled hike. After getting tackled 19 times in a game, he couldn’t shake the fear away any more.

“I looked at myself in the mirror and said it was not worth it,” LaRue said. “It was a hard decision to make, but I’m glad I was able to walk away from the game on my own power and not on a stretcher.”

LaRue graduated from Washougal High School in 2013. He continues to rehab at Washougal Sport & Spine. He also works with his father and uncle at LaRue Brothers Automotive, in Vancouver.

McCarthy said LaRue has made a remarkable recovery. Together, they work on strengthening his muscles around the injury.

“He has strong arms and legs, so we want to make sure his mid-section can support that,” McCarthy said.

“Steve is the only guy I trust,” LaRue said. “He is the reason I am walking again.”

LaRue wants to go to college and pursue a degree in sports marketing or physical therapy.

“The impact Steve has had on my life, I want to have on somebody else’s life,” LaRue said. “Every day I think back to being in that wheelchair, it makes me humbled to stand up. I’m very happy that I can go climb Beacon Rock or take my dog for a walk. Those are the things I took for granted. Those are the things I almost lost.”