Beating the odds: how Joey Jordison fought his way back from paralysis

A photograph of Joey Jordison with his therapists at Absolute Performance Therapy
Joey at Absolute Performance Therapy, where he spent many months (Image credit: Travis Shinn)

The full extent of Joey’s arduous battle with acute transverse myelitis is brought into sharp focus when we visit Absolute Performance Therapy in Waukee, Des Moines. Joey spent months here, working on his recovery, and the mere fact that today he is able to walk in through the front door without assistance speaks volumes about what he has achieved. His therapist, Alyssa Subbert, has nothing but praise for his determined approach.

“Being stubborn helped the most!” she laughs. “To go from being someone who could do anything to not being able to get out of a chair, then to get back to being able to do everything again, it was a huge process. He wanted to drum again so bad, and as long as we made every exercise about drumming, he’d do it. He was very stubborn and very ornery, but he’d work and work until his body was too sore.”

Physical therapy with Alyssa was gruelling, but it did the trick

Physical therapy with Alyssa was gruelling, but it did the trick (Image credit: Travis Shinn)

Gruelling physical work aside, it is obvious that Joey’s time at APT was also hugely emotional. He hasn’t been back since finishing his treatment, and there are tears as he and Alyssa recall the intense therapy sessions and ferocious perseverance
and teamwork that were needed to make each successive triumph a reality along the way.

“This was a huge wake-up call to Joey’s health and lifestyle, and how physical his job is,” Alyssa states. “When you’ve done something like that forever, you have no concept of it. He has to play in a drum set that rotates and goes upside down?! It’s not a regular job, sitting at a computer. We even practised mobbing him! Does he have balance when a whole bunch of people mob him, you know? It’s a whole different life, and very physical. So this was a completely unique process we went through.”

Joey has a full training programme that he sticks to religiously

Joey has a full training programme that he sticks to religiously (Image credit: Travis Shinn)

Joey’s physical therapy may be over, but his daily trips to local gym Life Time Athletic are an essential part of his recovery, not to mention his ability to play drums with the power and skill that fans have come to expect. His personal trainer, Caleb Herman, is a Slipknot fan who’s full of admiration for his client’s dedication.

“When Joey came in, he could hardly walk,” Caleb recalls. “Now he’s pressing 700lbs and he can do a step above what most people can do. He’s got one of the strongest back muscle groups I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t stand without help, but now he can stand up by himself, so his progress has been awesome. When he sees progress, he becomes motivated, and he tells me he gets the chills, and that gives me the chills. It’s really exciting to see him get to this point.”

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