The following article was written by Philip Jordan. Text under the heading, “Article” was written by Jordan. The pictures used in this post were taken by Sara Anderson Photography. I only know about this article because Charlotta Conradsen Bennett shared it. I have never been to the Shepherd Center, spoken with the Center staff, or interviewed any of the Center patients. I did not receive any compensation for sharing this post.
Although I had metastasized tumors on my spine, I did not have the type of spinal injury that is sometimes the result of a collision or fall. I chose to share the article because it shows recovery from a significant adversity is possible.
Alexa Bennett, 19, of Woodstock, Ga., sustained a C-2 spinal cord injury, fractured pelvis and a traumatic brain injury in an early-morning car accident on Oct. 5, 2012. What paramedics didn’t realize when they first reached the scene was that Alexa was also 12 weeks pregnant. Her path to rehabilitation would become more time-sensitive than most.
“It was incredibly difficult going through everything with my recovery while being pregnant,” Alexa says. “I didn’t have much time to prepare for birth and learn to be a mom with all my rehabilitation. I was just hoping and praying the baby would be OK.”
After her condition stabilized, Alexa was admitted to Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Program on Oct. 18. For three weeks, she relearned how to talk, walk, eat and work her way back toward independence.
At Shepherd Center, Gerald Bilsky, M.D., oversaw Alexa’s rehabilitation. Today, she sees more of Dr. Bilsky’s wife, Judith Tolkan, M.D., a pediatrician. Against great odds, on April 18, 2013, Alexa gave birth to a healthy baby named Colton.
“I love being a mom, and I can’t imagine my life without him,” she says. “Plus, everyone at Shepherd Center jokes that taking care of a baby is occupational, physical, speech and recreational therapies all wrapped up in one little package!”
In the summer of 2013, Alexa graduated from Shepherd Pathways, the hospital’s post-acute rehabilitation program in nearby Decatur, Ga. Then, in fall 2013, she began her first semester back at the University of North Georgia, studying childhood and special education. She made the Dean’s List for fall 2013. Alexa and her mom, Charlotta Bennett, also return regularly to Shepherd Center to visit with current patients and their families.
“Without Shepherd Center, I wouldn’t be walking or talking or going back to school or being a mom. None of it,” she says. “I know that.”
Click here to read another Story of Success posted on Beyond Injury.
Thanks to Alexa Bennett for sharing her story; Philip Jordan for writing the article; Sara Anderson Photography for taking the pictures that appear in the article; Charlotta Conradsen Bennett for sharing the article; all the medical personnel and therapist who turned the traumatic experience into a story of success; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the text and pictures I used in this post.
About Shepherd Center
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org