Almost a year ago, Suni Lee made history, winning the all-around title at the Tokyo Olympics, the first Hmong-American person to do so. She has won her battle, but her father is still fighting his own. In 2019, John Lee was helping a friend cut a limb from a tree when he fell from the ladder.
The fall left him completely paralyzed in his legs and stuck in a wheelchair. But determined to regain his quality of life, he has taken a brave step towards recovery. It will not only help him but prove to be motivational to many others.
Suni Lee’s father is taking part in a clinical trial
Since the fall of 2020, John Lee has been visiting the V.A. in Minneapolis twice a week. Here, he is a part of a clinical trial to help those with no motor, sensory or automatic function in their lower extremities.
In January 2021, they surgically inserted a spinal stimulator that helps relieve pain and adjust movements. “Standing up, taking a few steps, walking upright, it’s exciting,” Lee claimed.
With the help of an exoskeleton, Lee is able to stand upright and even practice the motion of walking. The technology needs to be paired with a lot of physical therapy and rehabilitation, which makes it difficult. But it has tremendous potential and seems to be helping most of the people on the trial so far.
John Lee also shared his experience with the trial. “I’m getting older. I want to travel too, want to spend time in my life traveling, do things,” he said. “It’s kind of scary but then I said, ‘Oh you know, what I got to lose right?’”
Simone Biles once surprised the Lee family with a gift
Competing side-by-side at the Tokyo Olympics, Suni Lee and Simone Biles became good friends. Touched by Lee’s bond with her father, Biles reached out to TODAY for help in preparing a surprise for their family.
She sent a video message saying, “I love your daughter, Suni, so much” and explained that “you have done so much for her, so I reached out to my friends at the TODAY show to see if we could do something special for you.”
The surprise gift was a brand-new electric wheelchair. Biles noticed that Lee’s father was reliant on the family to push him around in the wheelchair. The motive behind the gift was to give him some autonomy in his movement.
With John Lee taking incredible steps to overcome the obstacles in his life, and Suni Lee becoming the Olympic champion, the Lee family is an inspiration for many.