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Two months later, Mr. Clark left the hospital and went home to his family’s antique-filled house in Bronxville, N.Y. He had been a fifth-grader when they moved to the United States from Italy, and back then, the tight-knit Bronxville community had been slow to welcome a boy who had grown up picking mushrooms in the foothills of the Dolomites in northern Italy. “I felt like the new kid until 11th grade,” he said.
Now the community embraced him. “After my injury,” he said, “I feel like the whole town has been looking after me.”
More important was the attitude of his family. “My mother and my father, they don’t treat me like a kid,” Mr. Clark said. “They’re almost like my accomplices. We try new restaurants, go to museums. We do whatever we want.”
No one would ever wish to be confined to a wheelchair, but under the circumstances, the Clark household was a fine environment in which to recuperate: the family is close without being smothering, concerned without being worrywarts, and well-to-do enough to afford top-notch treatment.
It also helped that Mr. Clark’s father, Harold, comes from a long line of doctors. In his practice, Dr. Clark combines traditional medicine with alternative medicine, homeopathy and vitamin therapy. Mr. Clark’s mother, Mariella, is a nutritionist and phlebotomist. From them, he inherited a creative outlook toward healing. “You have to approach recovery in a multidisciplinary way,” Mr. Clark said.
All the same, the first years after the accident were quite bleak. His days were filled with dull drives back and forth to physical therapy, and visits to doctors whose underlying message to Mr. Clark seemed to be that he should accept his fate, curb his expectations, and get used to living on the margins.
He refused to conform to their script. To the uninjured, such indefatigable hope can seem provocative, even unsettling. But having nearly lost his life, Mr. Clark doesn’t waste time worrying about whether other people are comfortable with his attitude.
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Before long, he grew frustrated by physical therapy sessions whose duration was dictated by insurance coverage. He had always been active, both physically — running seven miles a day, lifting weights — and intellectually. Now, he said, “it felt like my life was on hold. It was very one-dimensional.”
He read enough to realize that regaining movement and sensation in his body was possible. He also believed that recovery was not an end in itself, but a means to pursue other dreams. He signed up for clinical trials, researched innovative treatments — such as the stem-cell (or glial) surgery, for which he traveled to Beijing — and surrounded himself with people whose outlook matched his own. “The best therapy for me was to be treated as though I have a right to want to get better and to have fun and to live,” he said.
Two years ago, Mr. Clark installed a gym in his family garage. He spent $35,000 converting the space and buying state-of-the-art equipment, then hired trainers from local gyms.
The investment has paid off. Before, he was paying about $350 a day for therapy, plus the cost of the commute. Now, according to Mr. Clark, “it costs about $90 a day and I do five hours of therapy per day instead of two, and don’t waste hours in traffic. But most importantly, I am seeing better results and am leaving the medical community dumbfounded on my progress.”
Running a business was never on his to-do list. Clark’s Botanicals evolved naturally from Mr. Clark’s efforts to relieve his skin of a host of problems: dryness, acne, rashes. “My skin couldn’t sense hot and cold and know when to sweat,” he said. “I wasn’t releasing toxicity.”
He and his father experimented with 78 botanical extracts, and discovered jasmine absolute, a jasmine derivative that, according to Mr. Clark, is naturally rebalancing. “I began making lotions for myself,” he said. “Some of my dad’s patients started using them and liked them.” Former colleagues from Harper’s Bazaar, where Mr. Clark had worked as an editorial assistant before his injury, liked the products, too, and published them in the magazine.
Sales have doubled every year for the last three years; Clark’s Botanicals products are available at Henri Bendel, C. O. Bigelow, and Fred Segal Beauty in the United States, and are sold in Europe and Asia.
The company is based in the house’s former sun porch, which also serves as Mr. Clark’s bedroom. “It’s all windows, so I’m looking out,” he said. “It’s like that with my injury. It’s not just looking inward at my body, but looking outside.”
Part of what he sees is a family that, like most contemporary families, is scattered and preoccupied by various commitments for much of the week.
But every Thursday and Sunday, they all come together for dinner. Four generations sit down at the table, including Mr. Clark’s nephew, 2, and niece, 5 months, children of his brother, who lives nearby.
“It’s fun,” Mr. Clark said. “We laugh. It’s a huge, wonderful feast. It feels like Thanksgiving.”
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page RE1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Place to Get Better, and Thrive. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe
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