Cameron Lindow navigated her life course as carefully as the canoe she loved to paddle. At 22, she had forged her way through college at Emporia State University, in Emporia, Kan., graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, magna cum laude, for her exceptional efforts. She had accepted a job offer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and was busy planning a summer wedding with her fiancé, Steven.
On June 23, 2007, Cameron and Steven, both from Kansas, joined their friends for a celebratory canoe trip down the Elk River in Noel, Mo. In keeping with tradition, at the halfway point, Cameron dove from a bridge. But this time, something went terribly awry when her head hit a rock. In that instant, her life course changed.
“I remember being underwater, realizing I couldn’t move my body. I kept telling myself to hold my breath, so I wouldn’t drown.” Cameron recalled. Her friend John quickly realized she wasn’t joking around and went in after her. Steven helped stabilize her body in the water until the helicopter arrived to transport her to Freeman West Hospital in Joplin, Mo.
Cameron’s extensive injuries included an incomplete spinal cord injury at levels C2 and C6 and displaced vertebrae. A halo was applied to help straighten her spine and she underwent a nine-hour surgery to fuse her vertebrae. After two weeks in the intensive care unit at Freeman, Cameron was flown to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I came to Madonna with the goals of getting movement back in my legs and eventually walking again,” Cameron said. “My muscles had atrophied, so I knew I had to build them back.” She has favored the Ergys2 bike and the Quickie Cyclone hand cycle to improve movement. She notes her tenodesis grip is stronger and her extensors are rebounding with simple tasks, like wringing out a wet cloth.
Cameron’s trademark smile, positivity and determination are a continuous source of inspiration to her Madonna team. She tackles her therapy challenges with a vengeance, nearly doubling her efforts each session. Mikayla Humm, Madonna occupational therapist, identified with Cameron’s need to be able to apply her own makeup. Humm created several Velcro adapters for Cameron, including lip gloss, eye liner and other products. “I was so grateful. I’m a young woman and wearing makeup is huge for me!” said Cameron.
Family and friends have rallied around Cameron. Her mother, Susan, has been at her side and is living in one of Madonna’s family housing units. Back in Wichita, her sister, Sayre, and father, Gary, are overseeing the handicap accessible remodeling to Cameron’s home.
Facing this life-changing event has been a challenge, but Cameron remains optimistic. She smiles broadly, explaining her plans to return to college and work on her master’s degree in psychology. Her life’s course may have been drastically altered but one thing is certain — Cameron is back on track.