FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This story courtesy of the New Haven Register, written by Clare Dignan
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Since his freshman year in high school, Collin Walsh has had running in his blood. He ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track for nine years — four in high school and five in college, always the captain of his teams.
But last April, a crippling illness left him without the ability to walk, until now.
Walsh, who has been diagnosed with a sever case of multiple sclerosis , has begun to heal his disease and participated in the Men’s 55m dash in the annual James Barber/Wilton Wright Alumni Meet at Southern Connecticut State University Saturday.
“After a long hard journey across the world and everywhere in between, this is my statement of triumph,” Walsh said. “They said me walking would be impossible. Come to this meet and see what impossible looks like.”
With a crowd of family, friends, neighbors and teammates alongside him and his wife, Amika Ghosh, behind him every step, Walsh walked down the track with only forearm crutches. And while even raising one leg usually takes a lot of effort, Walsh said he could almost feel his legs automatically pulling themselves one in front of the other.
A former All-American runner at SCSU, Walsh has always pushed hard and set big goals. In college, he interned at the White House during the George W. Bush administration and graduated SCSU in 2008 magna cum laude in political science. He had the highest GPA in his major. At graduation, he also received the scholar athlete award and Kul B. Rai award for excellence in political science.
“I always wanted to dive in as deep as I could and always wanted to be as good as I can,” Walsh said. He also knew he wanted to find a way into public service. Walsh applied to law school and was accepted to the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University.
But that wasn’t enough for Walsh, he said. He wanted to serve his country at a high level and to make himself the best candidate, Walsh became Indiana’s first exchange student to Jindal Global Law School in India. There, he met his future wife, Amika Ghosh, who was also a law student at the time, and proposed after only three weeks.
Partly to improve his resume and partly to impress his future father-in-law, Walsh applied for and received the critical language scholarship from the U.S. State Department to study Bengali. During this time, the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, struck.
It was after Benghazi that Walsh felt emboldened to join the foreign service and applied to the U.S State Department as a special agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He had no idea if he’d be accepted after completing his law degree. So he enrolled at the Connecticut Police Academy where he graduated top of his class.
Walsh worked as a Milford police officer for two and a half years while waiting on a list at the state department when one day they called with his dream job offer. Walsh put in his two weeks notice with Milford policeand moved to Washington, D.C. with Ghosh.
On the second night in D.C, Walsh began suffering horrible back spasms that left him unsteady on his feet and the next day, he couldn’t walk at all. The symptoms were getting rapidly worse and at that point, they didn’t know how bad it would get.
“It was terrifying,” he said. He was immediately driven back to Connecticut, still with no idea what was happening. He saw a chiropractor first, then a neurologist, and once the doctor saw the scans, he ordered Walsh to go to the Yale New Haven Hospital emergency room. By the time he got there, Walsh was completely paralyzed.
“What I wanted so badly for so many years, what I waited so long for, what I tried so hard for was taken away in a night,” he said.
Every night, with Ghosh beside him, Walsh slept with bags of ice on his head because he felt like his body was on fire and received IV steroids for two months. The onset was so atypical that doctors took months to diagnose it, Walsh said. He spent six weeks at Yale New Haven Hospital and another six weeks at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare, and even though doctors had done several tests for MS, they wouldn’t say he had it because the rapid onset was so peculiar, Walsh said.
Once he was discharged from Gaylord, Walsh and his wife sought out a leading MS specialist in Connecticut who told them Walsh definitely had MS, that it was “very sever and extremely rare.” He also told Walsh he would never walk again.
“He said ‘Forget about your job. You’ll have to make the wheel chair your friend,’” Ghosh said. Since the specialist said walking would never happen, they decided they would go somewhere to make it happen, Walsh said, so they went to Ghosh’s home in India to find a way.
Walsh spent 10 months in India getting treatment from Dr. Showpon Roychoudhury, flying back to the U.S. every three weeks to get his MS drug and then returning to India.
Walsh arrived in India unable to move from the chest down, but with six to seven hours of physical therapy a day and oil massages three times a day, he started to feel improvement.
Walsh would hang onto a wall while four people held him up just so he had pressure on his legs and if his legs couldn’t handle it, two more people would hold his knees in place.
“No one here would do that,” Ghosh said. “They would say what’s the point, but in India, they will say it will happen.” With time and continuous treatment, Walsh began to wiggle his toes.
“Nobody would let me stay paralyzed, even if I wanted to and I certainly wouldn’t want to,” he said. “Nobody would let it happen.”
He progressed to being able to stand, then walking with full-leg braces that locked his legs straight, then walking with a walker and eventually walking on stairs.
Through a strict diet and intense physical therapy, Walsh has been able to regain feeling and movement throughout his body, an enormous recovery from being completely paralyzed a year and a half ago. He eats a lot of organic vegetables but no dairy, sugar or grains. He goes to physical therapy at Gaylord twice a week and also does Pilates three times a week. His entire family has also changed their diet along with him to support his recovery.
“I never had any doubt from day one,” Ghosh said of Walsh’s recovery. “I was never scared. We were just married and I should have been really scared. I didn’t know what my future holds, but for whatever reason, it was like Godwas telling me it was going to be OK.”
Walsh’s doctor said the MRI scans show Walsh’s lesions are slowly fading , according to Ghosh, and with the progress Walsh has made so far, Walsh’s doctor sees the improvement continuing, with his nerves regenerating in four to five years.
After a lot of thought, Walsh said he believes getting MS happened for a reason and that it will not stay.
“I believe if I put my mind to something, it will get done, especially with my wife’s encouragement,” he said. “She wouldn’t have it any other way. I know this will keep getting better and I know I won’t need the walking sticks at some point.”
“He always had running in his blood,” Ghosh said. “He doesn’t want to walk, he wants to run.”
Last year at the alumni meet, the mile event was named for Walsh. Jack Maloney, who was Walsh’s coach at Southern, said one couldn’t find a better friend or person than Walsh, or an athlete with his commitment and determination. He was the “ideal athlete a coach would want.” When he learned of Walsh’s disease, Maloney said it didn’t surprise him that Walsh was fighting to walk again.
“I know the fight,” Maloney said. “It’s an uphill battle and you can rehabilitate, but it takes extraordinary effort, but it doesn’t surprise me he can conquer anything.”
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