(by Kami Semick):
I had the chance to take a tour of the Rehab and PT area of St Charles early in December. I met two "patients", both in the outpatient rehab area.
The first person I met was a young woman with bright expressive eyes, named Teresa. Teresa was just finishing up some upper body exercises from her wheelchair when we were introduced. Almost two years ago, at the age of twenty-one, Teresa was snowboarding out of bounds with some friends at Alpine Meadows in Tahoe. As Teresa was flying down the run at a pretty high speed, she caught an edge and flew thirty feet before landing on her neck. She then went another fourty feet and landed a second time again on her neck.
Teresa has gone through two surgeries, and has been told she has a chance of a recovery, a chance to walk again. What I've learned is with spinal cord injuries, the body has the potential to heal, but on what seems like an extended timeframe. Maybe two years, maybe more. The two year anniversary of Teresa's accident will be February 24, 2007, coincidentally the start of the Iditarod Trail Invitational race.
Outside of physical and occupational therapy, Teresa participates in art therapy through a program offered at St Charles Medical Center. Teresa is now pursuing a college degree in art. Teresa has taken this challenging period in her life and created an opportunity for herself to pursue this talent.
Determined is how I would describe the second young women I met. Breezy is 23 years old. On July 8, 2006, Breezy was in an automobile accident that resulted in C5 quad with partial paralysis from the neck down She spent 14 days in the hospital, 45 days in a rehabilitation inpatient unit, and 6 weeks with home health therapy, and now lives with her mother and father. I also met Breezy's father, a man with a big smile, but also with the look of determination in eyes.
Prior to the accident, Breezy lived in a two story house in Bend. When a person is highly limited in mobility, normal living in a two story house soon becomes a daily mountain that has to be climbed. After the accident, they relocated to a one level home.
Breezy described how her daily routine revolves around therapy and rehab. The first thing she does every morning is move her joints around so they don't become stiff. After breakfast, she does another round of exercises, then heads off to rehab for more work. When asked if she was interested in sharing her story with me, and hearing about my race intentions, Breezy said yes, but to only five minutes so she could get back to rehab, back to her goal of one day walking again.
We talked a bit about the Iditarod race. I hope to only be out on the frozen trail for seven or eight days. But Breezy has been working hard at learning to regain her normal functions now for almost five months, a daily marathon of challenges. She said she was inspired by what I'm doing. I'm inspired by what Breezy is doing.