On August 15th, Haley Meeks faced a challenge that would test her strength, resilience, and the very essence of her independence. After a life-altering car accident left the 19-year-old from Kansas City, Kansas with a spinal cord injury, brain trauma, and multiple fractures, she was unsure what her future would look like.
A journey through uncertainty
Haley's journey began with medical professionals expressing uncertainty about her fate. Words like "brain dead" and predictions of a life as a wheelchair user, spiraled through her family’s mind, leaving them feeling hopeless.
“They told my mom that I’ll probably never be able to move my neck or hold my head over my shoulders and stand up,” Haley said. “They also said that it’d be a miracle if I walked again.”
However, Haley's unyielding spirit and determination to defy the odds became the driving force that would reshape her destiny.
Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals: A lifeline of hope
Enter Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, a beacon of hope in Haley's tumultuous journey. After spending a critical month at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, Haley joined Madonna's specialized spinal cord injury program.
“When I first got here, I just kept crying every day, sad that I was in this situation and kind of thought, this is how the rest of my life was going to be,” Haley said. “But now I know, I’m just going to keep getting better.”
Haley’s physician-led care team embarked on the mission to restore her not just mentally and physically, but also her sense of independence.
“Independence is very important for a 19-year-old,” Samantha Sellers, OTR/L, occupational therapist said. “Especially for her, because she did everything on her own before she got here without the help of anyone.”
Fearless attitude ---- charismatic nature
Despite concerns about the uphill battle ahead, Haley approached her rehabilitation journey with a fearless attitude. Sellers, a vital member of Haley's care team, attests to Haley's infectious positivity and willingness to embrace her challenges.
“She was super bubbly and full of life,” Sellers said. “She just always wanted to participate in therapy and wanted to do everything that she could to get better.”
Specialized technology drove her progress
Haley's rehabilitation wasn't a conventional one. It involved leading-edge rehabilitation technologies designed to target specific motor functions. From the Lokomat robotic gait trainer to the Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike, each innovative tool played a crucial role in Haley's journey toward recovery. Warm water therapy and time in the therapy kitchen further enriched her rehabilitation experience.
“I used to not be able to lift (my) heel up and go heel-toe, heel-toe, but the Lokomat helped it a lot,” Haley said. “Now I can do it without slamming my foot down when I’m walking.”
And she experienced the same success with her arms.
“We couldn’t use the bike on the left side, which is her dominant side because of that fracture in her clavicle, but we used it on the right and that really helped get that arm going,” Sellers said. “By the time that she left, she was pretty much able to raise that arm up over her head and both of her hands were fully functional.”
Setting and surpassing goals
Collaboration between Haley and her care team proved to be key in setting and surpassing rehabilitation goals. From the seemingly simple tasks of dressing independently to the more complex challenges of navigating the kitchen, Haley's progress was nothing short of remarkable.
“Her biggest goal when she came here was to walk out, and she definitely walked out of here, but we did set goals along the way as far as self-cares go,” Sellers said. “She wanted to be able to get dressed herself, shower herself, make food herself and do laundry, so OT-wise, we really honed in on that stuff.”
From rehab to real life
Haley's success extended beyond the rehabilitation hospital. The transitional living apartments became the proving ground for her newfound independence. Samantha recalls moments of triumph as Haley tackled daily tasks – from doing her laundry to managing her own therapy schedule independently.
“At the end, we put her in transitional living apartments where she was able to kind of do everything that we taught her on her own,” Sellers said. “And she did great.”
A grateful heart, a new beginning
Haley’s journey at Madonna serves as a powerful reminder that resilience, coupled with world-class rehabilitation and unwavering support, can lead to extraordinary outcomes.
Haley is eternally grateful for newfound independence and her Madonna care team.
"Thank you, Sam, and thank you, Janelle, and everybody,” she said “I love you guys so much. Thank you for helping me walk again and be comfortable with myself."