It wasn’t that long ago that Greg Gardner wouldn’t have even imagined a life that revolved around the every day management of a service-based organization such as Individual Differences, Inc*.
Instead, he was busy being a husband and a dad to his three young daughters and navigating through his career as Sangamon County’s Assistant Regional Superintendent of Schools.
That all changed one January day as he was out jogging near his Springfield home.
Struck hard by a passing car, Greg was seriously injured. Complications during treatment led to a stroke and spinal cord compression.
His family was in shock.
Word quickly spread across the community. In addition to his job in the area’s school system, Greg had been Springfield’s first state wrestling champion and had been the wrestling coach at Southeast High School for 11 years, as well as the head of Southeast’s special education department for nine years. His wife Roxanne taught kindergarten in the Ball-Chatham school district.
In an outpouring of support, the community rallied around the Gardner family, holding fundraisers to pay for medical expenses and special physical therapy equipment. Christie Davis, a physical therapist who knew the Gardners from their church, volunteered to work with Greg on a daily basis.
“We never had to ask anyone for anything,” recounts Greg. “The support was just there.”
Throughout their experience, the Gardners remained ever-conscious of the fact that their situation was unique. Not every person who faces life with a disability has the same sort of support network. An accident of Greg’s magnitude could potentially bankrupt a family, not to mention the years of therapy and support services needed afterward in order to allow someone to be employed or return to school.
For this compelling reason, Greg launched Individual Differences, Inc., aiming to leverage his knowledge of community resources, the school system and disability services in order to help others.
Christie Davis graduated from Saint Louis University with a degree in physical therapy. In 2005, she began to focus her practice on spinal cord injury (SCI) patients when the Gardner family asked Christie to be a part of Greg’s care after exhausting all options in the conventional medical system. She began extensive study and research in spinal cord injuries, studying at the Rehab Institute of Chicago, being a personal trainer for Greg at Project Walk in California, and working under Christopher Reeve’s physical therapist and doctor at Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD.
Christie’s passion for and study of SCI has led her to exclusively offer activity-based therapy for her patients at Hope Physical Therapy clinic in Springfield, Illinois that she opened in 2007. Activity based therapy consists of repetitive motor retraining through locomotor training on the Lite Gait, FES bike, aqua therapy and intensive retraining of motor pathways through developmental sequencing and exercise.
She offers patients hope with the philosophy that individuals with paralysis can always hope for recovery of sensation, function, mobility and independence, even many months or years after their injury.
Christie is married to Dr. James Davis, a periodontist, and is the proud mother of four children. She also serves as a physical therapy consultant to mission clinics in Manila, Philippines and Jamaica.