Recovering from a Spinal Injury: Anna’s Story

Recovering from a Spinal Injury: Anna’s Story

Articles Blog


(soft music) – My friends and I, we drove
to Torrey Pines State Park. We parked at the top and
walked down the beach trail. I remember stepping onto the beach, I remember it being a gorgeous day, and that’s sort of where my
memory of that day stops. – [Rescue Worker] We’re
at Torrey Pines right now, I’m trying to get at the
rocks that fell on a girl. – My mom yelled from
downstairs, she yelled my name, but I could hear in her tone
(man speaking faintly) that it was not her
usual, Daphne, I’m home. It was, there was
something else in her voice and told me, “Anna’s been in an accident.” My first question, is she alive? She wasn’t even able to answer that. We drove to the airport, and
that’s when I sort of lost it. I remember screaming in the airport, and TSA agent asked me if I’d be
okay, and I was just sobbing. – [Rescue Worker] We have a major trauma. – And then we had to sit on a
three-and-a-half-hour flight not knowing if she would survive. (soft music) – And then we walked
into the emergency room, and there she was, beautiful
as always, but just asleep. – I held her hand and whispered
in her ear that I loved her, and I hoped that she could hear it. – When I first woke up and when
I first started remembering, Erin was the person who
was there to tell me what had really happened to me. – And Anna said something, something, like, “What
happened to my legs?” – I think I was asking
the question out loud that hadn’t been confirmed by anyone yet, but I think I knew. – I remember just looking her
right in the eye and saying, you were at Torrey Pines
and some rocks fell on you, and you have a spinal cord
injury, and the doctors said you won’t be able to move your legs again. And there was this long pause,
and everyone in the room was just holding their breath, and Anna looked at us, (sighs) (laughing) and Anna said, “Then I guess I’m gonna be a
really good swimmer.” (sniffs) – When I’m in the water, I
don’t really feel any different from anybody else in the water around me. – I am gonna take you on your back The reason for that is, you can breathe. – Feeling my mom’s, my dad’s,
my brother’s, my sister’s pain that they felt for me
when I was struggling. – Chin up, chin up.
– So, knowing that if I didn’t keep fighting, that it would hurt them more. – And there’s always what I
call the basketball effect, when you first roll over,
you’re gonna go down, and then you’ll come up.
– Every time I get into the water, I learn something new about the way I need to move my new body in order to swim and feel safe and confident in the water. – For a lot of people,
when they’re done swimming, they stand up, but what will you do if you’re just out there? And that’s where I want
you to have that roll. Nice, good job. – Yay.
– How’d that feel? – Great, I feel very free. – I think that’s one of
the most beautiful things about swimming, being in water, is that you leave behind any
devices you need on land, and you come in and now it’s just you. – Anna is, (chuckling) she’s incredible. There’s no other person like Anna. – When I first started using
my wheelchair, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to roll
up a ramp, or get down a curb. – Up, and down.
(Anna laughs happily) Like a rock star. – Through Sharp’s
occupational therapy program, they really helped me
navigate my new world. – Good job, Anna.
– Thanks, Mom! – And what we’re working on
is to eliminate the hesitation as she, just to maintain the momentum. To go forward, pop up,
and keep going, pop up. Not fast, but try without hesitation. And just when I think,
is she ready for that? And I throw it out as a
possibility, she goes after it. I say we get rid of that
platform and try the four-inch. – Yeah?
– Yes. You’re ready for it.
– Alright, let’s do it. – Alright, as if you ever said no. – Pop. (sighs)
– Need more speed, bam. – [Anna] (laughs) ooh! (laughing) Oh! – You know, Sharp and Sharp Rehab sort of set me up for success, so I
don’t want to disappoint them. – I mean, you’ve seen her,
she just, whole-face smile, and, I mean, her whole life’s changed, and she’s goin’ after it. – They contacted me to help train her for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. She was training for that
at the time of her accident. – Feel the burn.
– Yup, there you go. So you actually could pedal fast. – [Anna] Okay. (Anna laughing) – There you go. As soon as it starts gettin’
hard, start downshifting. Downshift, downshift, you can do it. Once you’re on your bike, you
can just go as far as you want wherever you want, that’s pretty cool. – That’s amazing. (orchestral music) Gorgeousness! – [Rick] Yeah, it’s not bad. (Anna laughs) – I definitely like to
be able to drive to work and to the grocery store, and seeing friends and all those things. – Across the United States?
– Yes, that too. – There you go, perfect.
– Thank you. I’m so grateful to my
whole team of therapists. I obviously would, I would just be in bed if it wasn’t for them. They’ve, you know, taught
me how to move again. Do you think that I’ll need
a ramp and a swivel seat? – Probably not. As you continue to work
with your therapy people, you’re gonna gain a lot more independence. – Okay.
– Okay. – Yup, ready. I was just gonna ask you.
– And when you decide what car you’re gonna purchase. That’s another thing that’s
gonna be interesting, yeah, ’cause it’s a two-handed job
to change gears, obviously. And just let the idle speed take you around the corner by this van. – Not having to think so
hard about what is gas and what is brake and how
do you shift the gears, and all those things makes
me concentrate so much on– – Exactly.
– What to do, and I hope eventually I’ll be able to also focus on the environment. (laughing) Here we go. – Good job, Anna.
– Wow. (laughing) – Team Anna driving.
– I’m very excited to be able to just go
somewhere all by myself, even if it’ll just be
driving along the coast road, or going to the grocery store,
I love the grocery store. Or to work, it’s anything that,
just, I can’t even imagine, I haven’t really been by myself at all, I can’t even remember
what that feels like. – It was about, maybe four or five months after her accident, you
know, everyone’s talking about coming back to work. And Anna’s response was,
“Well, I’ll be back to work “by Christmas, like half
time or full time by then.” And we all were like, Anna,
that’s crazy, why would you, how are you gonna be able to do that? And come like November, Anna’s
at work, seeing patients. – The first time that I could
put my white coat back on and come to work and see patients, that’s really when I
started feeling like myself. It’s when I was able
to become a caretaker, a provider, a physician again. Dr. Erin King is one of my
besties here and colleague. We just bonded immediately. She’s been there every step of the way through my medical journey. Being on the patient side,
feeling vulnerable and broken, helped me really learn what a patient needs from a physician. Hey, I’m Dr. Hackenberg. And any medical problems? I sort of had to relearn the
physical exam a little bit. Just had to, you know,
maneuver around a patient from a different perspective. ‘Cause when I first enter the room, I’m already kind of at
the patient level, so, although I think patients
are a little shocked, maybe, that I’m on wheels, I
don’t think they mind that. Usually they’re sitting,
and so I’m sitting, so we get that eye to eye interaction. – She’s, has this like,
unending supply of sunshine that just bursts out of her
when she turns the corner. – It’s her smile, she is
just bringing sunshine to everybody’s life. – She brightens up any
room she rolls into. – Her colleagues at work
call her Dr. Sunshine. Which I think is probably, for a doctor, that’s the best title that you can have. And from a patient’s perspective, that’s I mean, what other
doctor would you wanna have? – Everybody was just always there you know, with me, I didn’t have to do any of this on my own. – And that, I give you 5% at the top. – Yeah.
– At top. This is your best one,
here’s where it gets harder. Stay back, stay back, stay
back, there’s more of an angle. – Underneath all of this
is just, is my family, my friends, my community, my Sharp family. – This is the ultimate
activity of daily living that gives you independence.
– Yes. Driving independently is the best. I can go wherever I want. (soft music) (all cheering) I would not be here this far without my amazing family and friends and everybody, so I’m just super grateful. (crowd cheering) – [Race Announcer] There they go! (orchestral music) – [Race Staff Member]
Wheelchair coming through, wheelchair coming through. – And in the water, I mean, you don’t see she is one that sits in a chair. She just looks like any
other swimmer out there. – She’s a really good
swimmer now. (sniffs) – I just hope she doesn’t
let it get in the way, ’cause she’s still the same Anna. And we don’t care if
she’s sitting or standing. – Being in the ocean, being
free, being independent and getting to be my best
self is all I could hope for. – The sky’s the limit
for her at this point. (orchestral music)

2 thoughts on “Recovering from a Spinal Injury: Anna’s Story”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *