Thursday, September 25, 2003

Portune adapts to life on wheels

Learns to drive on hand controls

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune just got a new driver's license.

This one enables him to drive using just his hands instead of foot pedals. He's also getting hand controls installed in his minivan.

They are a few of the adjustments Portune, 45, has made as he faces a long road back to full use of his legs. Tumors first discovered in his spinal cord in 1996 required three operations this year after they began to put pressure on the nerves leading to his legs.

He was able to walk with assistance within three months of the Jan. 14 surgery. Recovery from the second surgery, in late April, has been much slower.

"The prognosis is the same," Portune said. "Everyone is still saying with work and with continued effort - just staying at it on a regular basis - the opportunity is still there for me to walk."

He goes to Drake Center in Hartwell twice a week for therapy; he's now able to go 100 feet with a walker.

Portune and wife Angie may move out of their Westwood home to one that's more wheelchair-friendly.

Politically, it's back to business as usual for Portune. He has regularly attended commission meetings since last leaving the hospital in May.

He is also continuing to plan his 2004 re-election campaign.

"There's absolutely nothing about not being able to walk that prevents me from doing what I do," he said. "In many ways, all of what I've been through in the past year has helped cement my beliefs about what's important in both my personal life and professional life."


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