Injury. Prevention. Mission ALSO INSIDE SUMMER VACATION ON WHEELS + PASSION TO FIND A CURE RETURN TO WORK AND LIFE + BRAIN MOTOR CONTROL RESEARCH

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1 Injury Prevention Mission ALSO INSIDE SUMMER VACATION ON WHEELS + PASSION TO FIND A CURE RETURN TO WORK AND LIFE + BRAIN MOTOR CONTROL RESEARCH ShepherdCenterMagazine.org / Spring 2013

2 Shepherd Center Magazine: Spinal Column Spring 2013 Shepherd Center 2020 Peachtree Road, NW Atlanta, Georgia Editor Jane M. Sanders Design Soloflight, Inc. Contributing Writers Sara Baxter, John Christensen, Amanda Crowe, Rachel Franco, Phillip Jordan, Florina Newcomb, Scott Sikes, David Simpson, Molly Welch, Matt Winkeljohn Contributing Photographers Amanda Clark, Louie Favorite, Jeannie Hopkins, Russ Houston, Steve Jessmore, Kim Link, Gary Meek, Meg Porter, Tom Stiles, Cody Willhite, Steve Wood Board of Directors James H. Shepherd, Jr., Chairman Gary Ulicny, Ph.D., President and CEO Emory A. Schwall, Vice President William C. Fowler, Treasurer Stephen B. Goot, Corporate Secretary Alana Shepherd, Recording Secretary Members Fred V. Alias, Gregory P. Anderson, David F. Apple, Jr., M.D., C. Duncan Beard, Brock Bowman, M.D. *, Wilma Bunch *, James M. Caswell, Jr., Sara S. Chapman, Clark Dean, John S. Dryman, Mitchell J. Fillhaber *, David H. Flint, Stephen B. Holleman *, Michael L. Jones, Ph.D. *, Tammy King *, Donald Peck Leslie, M.D., Douglas Lindauer, Sarah Morrison *, Julian B. Mohr, Charles T. Nunnally III, Sally D. Nunnally, Clyde Shepherd III, J. Harold Shepherd, Scott H. Sikes *, James E. Stephenson, James D. Thompson, Goodloe H. Yancey III * Ex Officio Emeritus Shepherd Center Magazine: Spinal Column is published quarterly by Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in the treatment of people with spinal cord injury, brain injury and multiple sclerosis. change of address information or request to be removed from our mailing list to shepherd.org, or by mail to Shepherd Center, Attn: Shepherd Center Magazine Mailing List, 2020 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta, Georgia, Please include mailing label. Shepherd Center Magazine accepts no advertising. Spinal Column is a registered trademark of Shepherd Center. About the Cover: Former Shepherd Center patient Cole Sydnor, 17, of Mechanicsville, Va., hopes to prevent diving injuries, especially among teen-agers, by sharing the story of how he sustained a spinal cord injury when he dove into the James River in Richmond in Photo by Tom Stiles Dear Friends, In this issue s cover story, we feature four former Shepherd Center patients, who, in a moment in time, did not fully consider the risk involved in the activities that led to their injuries. In an instant, their lives changed. Each of them wishes they had assessed these situations more thoroughly. They are telling their stories now in hopes of preventing others from making risky choices that may cause spinal cord or brain injuries. Their stories are important as Shepherd Center expands its focus on injury prevention thanks to funds being raised in a campaign led by Atlanta attorneys Tommy Malone and George Fryhofer. We have learned that former patients who share their stories can have a huge impact especially on adolescents on preventing injuries that result from diving, distracted driving and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents. Our injury prevention program is piloting a program in middle schools in Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta. Former patients and Shepherd Center experts, alongside science teachers, are presenting an injury prevention curriculum to students. The program includes instruction on spine and brain anatomy, medical rehabilitation careers, and prevention of injuries caused by distracted driving, diving, unsafe operation of bicycles or ATVs, and guns and violence. If the pilot proves successful and all indications to date show it will be we hope to offer the curriculum to other school districts in Georgia and elsewhere. Beyond promoting safety among school students, we hope to deliver our injury prevention messages to adults, as well, through employers and civic organizations. The messages are simple: Wear a seatbelt. Don t text while driving. Wear a helmet when bicycling, skateboarding, and riding an ATV, scooter or motorcycle. Don t dive, or at least, enter the water feet first. It is time to remind our children, family and friends to follow these rules to stay safe. We must repeat these messages to reinforce them time and again. And we hope you will share the personal stories of our patients, as told in this issue of Spinal Column, in hopes of preventing injuries. These young men and women, and so many other patients, would ask you to stop and think before taking any actions that could result in serious, life-changing injury. Understand that these injuries don t just happen on the football field or the racetrack or in other organized sports activities. They can happen to anyone who fails to completely consider the potential hazards of activities such as diving and distracted driving. We also hope you are inspired by the comeback stories of the patients featured in the cover story and other articles in this issue. They have received excellent, comprehensive rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, and they draw upon the support of their families and friends, as well as their faith, which is often rekindled during a time of crisis. So as spring and warm weather arrive, explore outdoor activities, take a drive, and appreciate the life, faith and renewal the season brings. Just remember to practice safety first. Warm regards, James H. Shepherd, Jr. Chairman of the Board Spinal Column A LETTER FROM JAMES SHEPHERD

3 Spring 2013 Shepherd Center CONTENTS FEATURES INJURY PREVENTION MISSION Staff and patients work to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries. PASSION TO FIND A CURE Former patient advocates for funding research to find a cure for SCI. SUMMER VACATION ON WHEELS Pre-planning makes a big difference for people with mobility impairments. RETURN TO LIFE & WORK Two former patients share their comeback stories. DEPARTMENTS SHORT TAKES MEDICAL STAFF PROFILE Gerald Bilsky, M.D. REFERRING DOCTOR PROFILE Lawrence Lottenberg, M.D. RESEARCH FEATURE Brain Motor Control Assessment PATIENT PROFILE Jan Morgan, M.D. ALUMNI PROFILES FOUNDATION FEATURES HONORARIUMS & MEMORIALS PHOTO BY LOUIE FAVORITE Gifts of Generosity If you would like to make a gift to support the work you have read about, please contact Scott H. Sikes at the Shepherd Center Foundation at or visit shepherd.org. See ShepherdCenterMagazine.org for exclusive online content. Shepherd Center Readies as the Affordable Care Act Rolls Out Shepherd Staff Lends Expertise to Georgia Organization that Helps People Post-Injury Brain Injury Peer Visitors Program Encourages Patients And Their Families

4 Sshort takes PARKER HANNIFIN FORMALIZES COLLABORATION AGREEMENT WITH SHEPHERD CENTER FOR THE Commercialization of Indego TM Parker Hannifin Corporation and Shepherd Center announced in February a formalized agreement to support the commercialization of the company s exoskeleton device called Indego TM. Parker Hannifin (NYSE: PH) is the global leader in motion and control technologies. Indego is planned for release in Under the general terms of the agreement, Shepherd Center will function as the lead rehabilitation center for clinical testing of the device. Shepherd Center will develop clinical protocols for use of the device, train clinicians at other rehabilitation centers where the device will be used and monitor clinical trials. Also, the agreement includes collaboration between Parker and Shepherd Center to market Indego. Shepherd Center has a world-class reputation in the field of rehabilitation, and we are proud they have chosen to support us in the commercialization of Indego, says Craig Maxwell, vice president of technology and innovation for Parker. Shepherd Center is the only rehabilitation facility to have tested Indego and the two other devices currently being marketed by other companies as exoskeletons. Patient and clinician feedback on the device has been overwhelmingly positive, and the Center has concluded that Indego has the most promise as a device for both rehabilitation and home use. Indego is the only robotic exoskeleton that can be worn by a person while in his or her own wheelchair, as well as in a vehicle or even a restaurant booth, says Clare Hartigan, a Shepherd Center physical therapist who leads the clinical research. The device can be used for mobility on all surfaces, including stairs. Shepherd Center is proud to be a part of this effort and looks forward to testing Indego with other diagnoses such as stroke and multiple sclerosis, she says. To learn more about Indego, visit: Shepherd Center s MS Institute Medical Director Wins National Award for Educational Webinar A multiple sclerosis educational webinar developed and presented by Ben Thrower, M.D., medical director of the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center, recently won a national award. Dr. Thrower developed the webinar which won a Web Health Award from the Health Information Resource Center for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). The webinar provided information on the treatment and management of MS exacerbations. We are most grateful for Dr. Thrower s great content and excellent presentation, says Peter Damiri, senior director of programs at MSAA. Most importantly, our clients find tremendous value in this program as we have generated more than 3,000 archived views in less than a year making it one of the most-watched video programs on our website. Users who register for free at mymsaa.org can access the webinar Dr. Thrower developed, as well as other MS-related information. TOP PHOTO BY LOUIE FAVORITE, BOTTOM PHOTO BY GARY MEEK 2 ShepherdCenterMagazine.org

5 ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS with Recreation Therapy Activities Planned for Spring and Summer As warm weather arrives, Shepherd Center s Recreation Therapy Department has moved into full swing, offering outdoor activities beginning in May. Opportunities include the annual Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW), a whitewater rafting trip and waterskiing workshops. ASW, scheduled for May 17-19, is three, fun-filled days of land and water adventures that include adaptive waterskiing, tubing, water polo, fishing and jet skiing, as well as a climbing wall, zip line and target shooting. The event is held at Lake Martin in Jackson s Gap, Ala. People travel from all over the country to attend ASW, says Rebecca Washburn, Shepherd Center s manager of wellness and Beyond Therapy. It s a good way for people to get exposure to a lot of different activities. Much of the equipment used at ASW is adaptive. We look at who s coming and see how we need to adapt activities and equipment to meet the needs, says Kelly Edens, manager of recreation therapy. The cost to participate in ASW is $200 (includes meals, lodging, activities, instruction and a T-shirt); family members or caregivers can attend for $175 (includes lodging, meals and a T-shirt). The registration deadline is April 19. Space is limited and registration can close before the deadline date. For more information, call or visit Meanwhile, plans are being made for a fully guided river rafting excursion on the exciting Class II and III rapids of the Nantahala River in western North Carolina. The trip, planned for August, is open to people of all skill levels and abilities, and friends and family members are welcome to come along. The cost is $50 per person. Register by contacting Chris Ravotti at or Three water skiing workshops are planned for June, July and August on Georgia lakes in Acworth, Allatoona and Commerce. Led by professionally trained ski instructors, participants can learn the fundamentals of adaptive skiing. These workshops are designed for beginner and intermediate skiers. The cost is $50 per person. Register by contacting Lisa Ruger at or Molly Welch SHEPHERD CENTER FILE PHOTOS SHEPHERD WATER SKIING TEAM MEMBERS TO COMPETE IN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Members of Shepherd Center s water skiing team are set to compete this summer as part of the 2013 U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team, which will be seeking a third consecutive world team title at the 11th Disabled Water Ski World Championships in Milan, Italy. Shepherd Skiers Bill Furbish and Jeremy Maddox made the U.S. team, and David Carter and Pete Anziano will serve as alternates. To qualify for the team, Shepherd Skiers participated in months of rigorous training. Team members practiced once a week for four months, and completed outside training. The training mirrors the competitions, says Matt Edens, Shepherd Center s sports teams coordinator. The team practices for the three events, which are slalom, jump and trick. For more information on the upcoming World Championships, visit www. usawaterski.org. Molly Welch Spinal Column / Spring

6 Sshort takes FLOORING TRANSFORMATION As part of a donor-funded renovation of the entrance, reception area and elevator lobby of the Shepherd Building this past winter, workers installed new flooring. The old brick floor (left) remembered by some former patients for the bumpy wheelchair ride it caused has been replaced with smooth black and white tile (right). The area s new design and décor was created by top Atlanta designer Stan Topol, who also designed the main waiting room on the first floor of the Marcus-Woodruff Building. Before After Shepherd Center Launches Comprehensive Educational Site This spring, Shepherd Center is launching a comprehensive educational website for patients, caregivers and professionals. MyShepherdConnection. org will replace Shepherd Center s current online education portal, MyVitalConnections.org. The newly designed site features a user-friendly experience for seamless navigation. The site includes sections on spinal cord injury, brain injury/stroke and multiple sclerosis from both nursing and therapy perspectives. Shepherd Center is a trusted source of neurological information for many healthcare consumers, says Caroline Harrell, Shepherd Center public relations manager. We re pleased to compile and streamline the information collected at Shepherd Center into one easy-to-access online location. The site also offers sections on nutrition, respiratory health, home modifications, community access and tips for healthy living with new, how-to videos and graphics. Shepherd Center s caregiver guides and personal care manual will also be introduced in ibook format. MyShepherdConnection.org is an integral part of Shepherd s goal to promote healthy living post-hospitalization and optimize patient outcomes. Shepherd Center focuses on the well-being of its patients, even after they have discharged from the facility, Harrell adds. Our aim is that this online resource will help prevent complications and help our patients avoid returning to their acute care hospital due to secondary complications. Benefits Navigator Program Replaced with Hotline for Answers to Questions on Social Security Benefits The federally funded Benefits Navigator program, headquartered at Shepherd Center for 12 years, has ended. Federal appropriations for the Social Security Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program, which supported Benefits Navigator, ended in June 2012, but Shepherd Center funded the program for an additional six months. Benefits Navigator provided Social Security benefits counseling services to thousands of Georgia citizens with disabilities, including hundreds of Shepherd Center patients and their families. The success of Benefits Navigator was due, in large part, to program directors Sally Atwell and Curtis Rodgers, who were long-time Shepherd Center employees. The Social Security Administration has established a toll-free number ( ) for people with disabilities who have questions about their Social Security benefits. Customer service representatives with basic training in work incentive planning and assistance are available at this number to answer callers questions. 4 ShepherdCenterMagazine.org

7 Pstaff profile GERALD BILSKY, M.D., PHYSIATRIST, SHEPHERD CENTER INTERVIEWED BY JANE M. SANDERS INTERESTING FACTS: GERALD BILSKY, M.D., PHYSIATRIST, SHEPHERD CENTER PHOTO BY GARY MEEK Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor and then specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R)? A: I decided to become a doctor because I like to help people, and medicine seemed like a career in which I could contribute. I ve always thought of being a doctor as a noble profession. As for specializing in PM&R, I was not sure about this at first. I didn t know much about it when I started medical school. Then, during my first summer after starting medical school, I did an internship in a rehabilitation unit. I had an incredible mentor there, and I still keep in touch with him today. So that was the turning point. I spent that summer not so much doing clinical work, but getting to know patients. Most of them were there the entire time I was there. It was neat to develop relationships with them. I m a people person. I thrive on that. Q: Shepherd Center is known for some distinctive approaches to the practice of rehabilitation medicine. What aspects are most professionally rewarding to you and effective in producing excellent patient outcomes? A: We do some innovative things at Shepherd Center, but Shepherd is special because of the people who work here. It s a milieu of caring and teamwork. The staff is incredibly dedicated. There s a caring aspect here that is different than anyplace I ve ever seen. The technology and interventions are good, but you could use those same technologies and interventions elsewhere and still not get the outcomes that we get because of the people who work here. Q: At the core of Shepherd Center s mission is the goal of helping patients rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity, advocating for their full inclusion in all aspects of community life. In a practical sense, what does that mean to you in the way you perform your job? A: At Shepherd Center, we work to maximize a patient s potential and ability, and to rebuild lives in the best possible way whatever the circumstances are. We are honest and open. We don t promise things we can t deliver. One of the most important things we do is help people accommodate whatever disability they might have and support them in their efforts to be successful. It s not our definition of success that guides things, but the patient s definition of success. We have to be passionate and caring to reach out to people and meet them wherever they are in the process of rebuilding their lives. Q: How do you offer hope to patients at Shepherd? A: Rehabilitation therapy is physically and emotionally challenging and exhausting. We have to acknowledge that, not minimize it. We need to embrace that, but we also have to push people. We have to articulate that there are goals to achieve. As they achieve goals, we add new ones. Part of our role is to be a cheerleader. We have a lot of former patients who are role models for our current patients. They show what can be accomplished. We have role models from all facets of life. They are successful in the community. This is a real advantage. Our alumni are willing to give back. That comes, in part, from this milieu they experienced here at Shepherd Center. They learned that we care, and it fosters caring in them and they reach out to our current patients. You don t see that everywhere. EXPERIENCE: President, Atlanta Rehabilitation Associates; Program director, American Transitional Care- Northside; Medical director of Atlanta Rehabilitation Institute; medical director rehabilitation day program, Emory University Hospital PHYSIATRY INTERNSHIP AND RESIDENCY: University of Rochester, chief resident FELLOWSHIP: Boston University School of Medicine MEDICAL SCHOOL: University of Rochester UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: Brown University RANDOM FACTS: Dr. Bilsky is a chocoholic. He especially likes M&M s. He loves sports, especially football and college basketball. He is a Georgia Tech fan. He reads murder mystery and spy novels. More online at ShepherdCenterMagazine.org Spinal Column / Spring

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9 Injury Prevention Mission PHOTO BY GARY MEEK Shepherd Center staff and patients spread the word about risky behavior, hoping to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries. BY DAVID SIMPSON The classroom chatter dies down quickly when Cole Sydnor arrives to talk to school groups in Mechanicsville, Va. Cole, a 17-year-old former Shepherd Center patient, knows the students are looking at his wheelchair. But he starts by talking about life before his accident the schools he attended and his many hours of competitive swimming and other sports. A lot of them went to the same schools I went to, had the same teachers, the same coaches, Cole says. It shows them this (injury) is not a random thing. It happens more than they expect. Then he tells them how a guy a lot like them broke his neck diving into the James River on Aug. 11, 2011 an accident that landed him in the ICU at VCU Medical Center. That s the quietest they ve ever been, one group leader told Cole after an appearance. But the respectful students do have questions. For example: What s the hardest part of life with paralysis? The hard part is the dependence, Cole tells them. For example, when you go to get a drink that you used to just grab yourself, you have to ask someone for help. Patients and former patients, such as Cole, often share their stories in group settings, hoping to have an impact, especially on adolescents. Many of the appearances are coordinated through Shepherd s injury prevention program, which also uses social media and word of mouth to raise awareness of spinal cord and brain injuries. And this year, Shepherd Center and the Cobb County School District in suburban Atlanta will expand a program in which Shepherd professionals and several former patients join specially trained science teachers in presenting a two-and-a-half week injury prevention unit to seventh graders. Spinal Column / Spring

10 1. 1. Shepherd Center staff members and former patients speak to students at Campbell Middle School in metro Atlanta about injury prevention in May & 3. Cole Sydnor, 17, of Mechanicsville, Va., sustained a complete C-5 to -6 spinal cord injury when he dove into the James River in Richmond in SPECIAL MOMENTS IN A MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM Campbell Middle School in metro Atlanta was the first school to implement Shepherd Center s injury prevention curriculum in 2011 and I was surprised at how well the kids and the patients interacted, says Thomas Brown, Ph.D., the science curriculum director for Cobb County schools. The kids seemed to let their guard down, and the patients seemed to be able to be open and frank with them. It was very useful to get to the point that, Hey, you need to be careful and think about what you re doing. And if you don t, here s what can happen. This spring, the program will include Campbell and three additional middle schools: Dodgen, Dickerson and McClure. The program includes instruction on spine and brain anatomy, medical rehabilitation careers and prevention of injuries caused by distracted driving, diving, unsafe operation of bicycles or all-terrain vehicles, and guns and violence. Tests of students before and after these lessons in science classes have shown students attitudes toward risky behavior changed for the better, says Bridget Metzger, Shepherd Center s director of injury prevention. This year, educators also will assess whether the students intend to advocate safer behavior by others. If they see Mom texting and driving, Metzger says, how likely are they to say: You can t do that. That s not safe.? Or will they speak up if one of their peers is not wearing a seat belt? Brown would like to see some students join with patients to find better ways to teach injury prevention. In the case of distracted driving, he says: This problem is likely, in the short term, to get worse because kids are so married to their cell phones. Kids are better at technology than we are, so we need them to help find solutions. 2. Brown also thinks the program may teach students something intangible. We can use this project to help our kids realize that there are lots of people who are struggling in one way or another who need help and encouragement, he adds. SEEING THE IMPACT Like former patients participating in Shepherd s middle school program in metro Atlanta, Cole shares his story in his own community, hoping to evoke empathy an important factor in making an impact on the audience. (See While remaining dedicated to injury prevention, Cole is moving ahead with his life. He will graduate from high school this spring and plans to attend the University of Richmond with the assistance of a caregiver. He goes out with friends, who are happy to help bump him up stairs in his powerassisted wheelchair or grab a soda for him. Asking friends for help can make Cole feel like a nuisance sometimes, but he considers how he would feel if the situation were reversed. It would make me feel good to do that for my friend, he says. And he sees his story helping others. One mother reported an emotional warning she gave to her son to stop diving after hearing the details of Cole s accident at a community prayer service. The next time he went out to the river, he went to the same spot, but the tide had gone out, and the water was more shallow than he expected, Cole says. When the mother received a call that her son had been injured at the river, she feared the worst. But he had broken his tibia, not his spine, because he jumped in feet first. The boy told his mother, I thought about Cole, and I didn t dive.... he tells them how a guy a lot like them broke his neck diving into the James River on Aug. 11, PHOTO BY TOM STILES 8 ShepherdCenterMagazine.org

11 Jake Berryhill s Story In a way, Jake Berryhill is glad so many of his friends saw him lying in a hospital bed with a spinal cord injury and a battered face. More than any public service announcement could accomplish, he believes the message really hit home when his friends witnessed what could happen when texting while driving. That was a pretty frightening thing for them, says Jake, 26, of Athens, Ga. I ve had a lot of them tell me after seeing me like that they just won t do it. He has a message for newer friends. People will say, Yeah, I look at my phone all the time, and it s terrible. And I ll be like, Yeah, don t. And then he tells them his story. On May 17, 2011, Jake left his parents lake house in north Georgia and started back toward Athens. He had fallen into the habit of waiting 10 minutes or so before buckling his seat belt. He was about five minutes into his drive and texting when his car swerved a little bit off the road. Jake over-corrected and sent the car into a spin. Ultimately, the car crashed into a tree. Jake wound up in the floorboard with a gashed nose and chin, two missing teeth and an injury at the base of his neck that put paralyzing pressure on his spinal cord at the C-6 to -7 level. After back surgery and a week of intensive care at Atlanta Medical Center, Jake was transferred to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation. He spent four weeks as an inpatient, graduating from bed to wheelchair to walking with a cane. He moved to the Day Program for three more weeks and then went home to Athens to continue his recovery. Jake Berryhill, 26, of Athens, Ga., sustained an incomplete C-6 to -7 spinal cord injury in May 2011 when he wrecked because he was texting while driving. He was about five minutes into his drive and texting when his car swerved a little bit off the road. PHOTO BY GARY MEEK If you saw me today, you d have no idea that this had ever happened, Jake says. He returned to work as a business analyst for a software company. When he drives, his seat belt gets buckled immediately, and his phone goes in the cup holder. When the car s in motion, I won t pick it up. He thinks a lot about why people make the mistake he did. You get in the car every single day, and so it s not really a registered thought that you are taking a risk every time you get behind the wheel, Jake says. All of us want to think we have the ability to multi-task, he says. But something bad could really happen just because you took your eye off the road for a couple of seconds. Spinal Column / Spring

12 Ali Monckeberg, 24, of Cumming, Ga., sustained a C-1 spinal cord contusion in May 2009 after sliding down a homemade water slide into shallow water at Myrtle Beach, S.C. Ali Monckeberg s Story When former nursing student Ali Monckeberg, 24, told spinal cord injury patients at Shepherd Center she understood their challenges, she meant it. At an outing with friends at Myrtle Beach, S.C., on May 24, 2009, Ali went head first over a homemade water slide into the Atlantic Ocean. She slammed into hard sand beneath the shallow water, causing a C-1 spinal cord contusion in her neck. After surgery and acute care at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., she transferred to Shepherd Center, unable to move anything below her neck except her right wrist. But over the next two months, she rapidly progressed in Shepherd s inpatient treatment regimen and then in the day program. After follow-up at home in Cumming, Ga., she regained almost full mobility. By summer 2011, she was back at Shepherd as a nursing extern working with the same team of professionals who had treated her. It was really cool to be able to talk to the patients and say, I know what you re going through, Ali says. Her experience can make it difficult for her when she s with friends who dive into water. At the pool or in the lake, whenever people start diving in, I just have to look the other way, she says. It s just hard for people to understand the risk. Ali, who describes herself as 90 percent recovered, says she sometimes has a noticeable limp. People will say, What s wrong with your leg? Then I explain I had a spinal cord injury, and they don t understand how a spinal cord injury is interconnected with other issues with your body, Ali says. I think people are undereducated about what exactly can happen. Ali has friends who tell her it s safe to dive in some circumstances, and she agrees that it s better to look into the depth of the water than take no precautions. But she is proof that it s hard to truly assess the risks. Her friends had been sliding across a tarp on a sand pile for quite a while before she got up her courage to try it. I had seen people doing the same exact thing minutes before I did it, she recalls. Ali earned her nursing degree from Lynchburg College in As she embarks on a health care career, she wants people to understand that injuries that seem a remote possibility happen all too often. I talked to so many Shepherd Center patients who had gone through accidents that were completely freak accidents, Ali says. No one thinks about such little things that can change your life. She slammed into hard sand beneath the shallow water, causing a C-1 spinal cord contusion in her neck. PHOTO BY LOUIE FAVORITE 10 ShepherdCenterMagazine.org

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