Sam Jarmer, who was paralyzed from the neck down in 2019, says his Catholic faith has helped in his recovery.  Staff photo
Sam Jarmer, who was paralyzed from the neck down in 2019, says his Catholic faith has helped in his recovery. Staff photo

Undeterred by the strenuous task of physical therapy, Sam Jarmer continues to rebound from the life-changing injury he endured nearly two years ago.

His road to recuperation, he believes, is attributed to a determined spirit grounded in his strong Catholic faith, unyielding positivity, the love and care of family, and the support of his parish and school communities.

“I am doing great and making a lot of progress,” said Sam, 18, who was working as a lifeguard in Ocean Grove in July 2019 when he sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

In the days and weeks following his injury, Sam had surgery to repair damage; within the first four months, he regained the ability to sit up and use his arms during physical therapy.

“Going to Catholic school my whole life, it is easy to keep the faith,” said Sam, a senior in St. Rose High School, Belmar. Noting that he gains inspiration from knowing that God is there for him, Sam added, “There is someone always in your corner, and someone is always behind you.”

Now, Sam goes to physical therapy three times a week. Common exercises involve Sam riding a therapy bike, standing and walking with the assistance of his therapist. While he is currently in a wheelchair, he has his sights set on regaining his ability to walk.

“With the spinal cord, it is just a process of reconnecting all the pathways to the nerves and waking the muscles back up,” he explained, adding that physical therapy is a bit like a job. “You do it every day, as much as you can.”

“I make progress daily, and every week I go back [to physical therapy], there is something new I can do,” said Sam, a member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Bradley Beach.

Sam’s optimistic outlook is one he has embraced from the start. His mother, Jessica, said that doctors were initially not able to give the family a definitive answer about whether Sam would be able to walk again. She recalled telling her son, “You’ve got to fight for it.”

And he has done just that, she said.

“There are definitely times when it is tough,” Sam said. “But then you have to remember that if you put in the work, then you can get where you want to go. It’s not the easiest to predict when I can get back up, but I am definitely getting close.”

Along with his physical care, Sam is also proud to have been able keep up with his schoolwork with the assistance of a tutor. He expects to graduate from St. Rose High School this year.

Sam expressed gratitude to the St. Rose community and the outpouring of support he received from his peers. Students joined parishioners from the family’s parish for a Mass of Healing just a couple of days after his accident. A few months later, students from four high schools in the Diocese came together to honor Sam – a hockey fan – and his family with an ice hockey game fundraiser.

“They are all behind me, and they all care and want to see me get back on my feet,” Sam said. “I didn’t know … how many people would want to see me [recover].”

Jessica Jarmer said the family is grateful for Sam’s continued progress. “Every day, we make sure we thank God, [and] we all pray together at night. In the world that we have been thrown into, when we see other people’s situations, we feel we have been very blessed.

“I feel like we are being guided through this,” she continued. “There is never a day that we are really down. We get tired, but we don’t get sad.”

Sam said staying positive is something that he chooses to do. It’s with this mindset that Sam created his brand, SAMvincible. It’s his hope to one day to use that platform – and his experiences – to help others facing similar struggles.

“For right now, I am focused on getting back on my feet and walking,” he said, “and eventually see where that takes me.”

To learn more about Sam Jarmer and SAMvincible, visit www.samvincible.com.