Stephanie Beard: Walking The Walk
By Jewel Graham
The 700 Club
Original Air Date: May 30, 2008
“I was going around a little curve and I started hydroplaning and I remember my back end kinda coming out and flying around and then I remember feeling this big jolt and then I blacked out,” Stephanie said.
A 14-year-old witness to the accident crawled in the car and found Stephanie’s cell phone to call 911 and her parents.
“When we got there the car was upside down and the roof had been smashed to the top of the door handles,” Stephanie’s mother said.
“I just slammed the car in park, and ran over there to her, I got up under there and I said, I told Steph, ‘It’s alright sweetie, gonna get you out of there,’” her father said.
Paramedics used the jaws of life to cut her out of the car. The ambulance took her to the trauma unit at Vanderbilt Hospital.
“When she came in, I recall her, because she had unusual neurological findings, that she was pretty paralyzed on one side of her body,” said her physician, Dr. Miller.
Immediate MRIs showed fractures at the c5, 6, and c7 levels.
“The doctor told us that she was paralyzed and that she was actually diagnosed as an incomplete quadriplegic,” her mother said.
“Pretty soon after that she went to the operating room having a combined procedure; having a craniotomy, making a cut in, through the skull into the brain and evacuated the blood clot that was surrounding her brain and then fixing her, stabilizing her neck. Basically her cervical spine was fractured and dislocated so they had to put it back in place to get the pressure off the spinal cord and then fuse it in place,” Dr. Miller said.
Vanderbilt ICU kept Stephanie for eight days before she was stable enough to fly to a brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation center in Atlanta, Georgia.
“They told me that the Shepherd Center is specialized for spinal cord injuries and they’ve seen a lot of miracles there and I said, ‘That’s where I want to be!’” Stephanie said.
However, the magnitude of Stephanie’s injuries made her chances for full recovery slim.
“The majority of people that have a spinal cord injury when they have neurological deficit, meaning that they have no movement, the chance of that coming back is very low, like less than five percent,” Dr. Miller said.
Stephanie’s family and friends never gave up praying for a full recovery. Her mother said they completely put it all in God’s hands.
Stephanie’s initial gains in mobility were impressive.
“As my spinal cord heals, the signals that come from my brain down my spinal cord to the muscles, they slowly start to recover and the signals get clearer,” Stephanie said.
Muscle and strength recovery were painfully slow.
“I got frustrated a lot because I’m the type of person that, I like to be independent and I like to do things on my own, and the whole time I was there I had people; I had to have everybody do everything for me,” Stephanie said. “Instead of my mind waiting on my body to move, because I was like ‘Okay, all I have to do is move my finger, okay body, why isn’t it working?’ So it’s like I knew how to do it, my brain was sending the signal, but they were just very shattered and I hadn’t recovered yet so it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.”
Stephanie’s support system cheered her on with each new muscle she moved.
“I guess two weeks after her accident, we were standing there and she was like, ‘Ganette, I flexed my muscle! You know, touch it, feel it!’ And so we touched it and I just started crying I was so happy. I was like praise the Lord, this is what we’ve been waiting for,” her sister said.
Her father got her some flowers and started tickling her feet. She started moving her toes and moving her foot. Then she lifted her whole leg off the bed.
Her mother remembers that Stephanie would tell her, no matter what time of the day or night it happened, that she could feel her muscle. She noticed each improvement.
Physical and occupational therapists worked with Stephanie for hours each day. Just 98 days after her initial injury the once paralyzed Stephanie Beard walked out of the Shepherd Center with only a slight limp.
“This is definitely a miracle,” Stephanie’s mother said. “That was always my prayer, for God to please show this as a miracle with a speedy recovery.”
“The majority of spinal cord injuries, whatever neurologic deficit you have when you come in, is what you get, so she is extremely fortunate,” Dr. Miller said.
Stephanie’s passion before the accident was dancing with her high school dance team.
“Towards the end, one of my biggest goals was to be able to dance again. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I was going to meet that goal, and towards the end when I was in the treadmill program I started having hopes,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie returned to school and dance practice in the fall of her senior year.
“I ended up dancing at the first basketball game that we had,” Stephanie said.
“I was just crying like crazy. It was real, real, real moving, because it hadn’t been that long since we were in the hospital with her,” her father said.
“I definitely feel like a walking miracle because I do know how much worse it could’ve been. I realized the small things in life really matter. Just be thankful for what you have and don’t take anything in life for granted. God is everything, everything. He is, you know, He is the beginning and He is the end. He is. If you don’t know God, then you need to,” Stephanie said.
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