Rehabilitation helps teen recover from crash in time for prom

Brain Injury Pediatrics
madonna rehabilitation hospital health care missouri shelley cunningham independence
Prom is a shortened form of the word promenade, which when used as a verb, means to take a leisurely walk.

When 17-year-old Shelley Cunningham arrived at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in March 2016, she wasn’t able to leave her hospital bed on her own.

A crash caused by another driver while heading home from school in Independence, Missouri, put a hurdle between her and plans to attend prom with her friends.

This moment came after weeks of therapy.

“It’s hard and kind of painful, but I do it every day so I kind of get used to it,” said Shelley

For about two months, Shelley Cunningham’s team of therapists at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital worked with her to help her regain her independence and ability to walk in time for prom.

“In the OT treatments I learned, you know, how to stand at a counter still and, you know, do everything in my normal life that I originally do. If someone wasn’t home, if I was like home by myself, like, what would I do? And they taught me how to do it again. And then, Scott, with the PT, it’s for physical therapy. And so just having him like strengthen my leg back, and just have all that strength coming back, it’s a really good feeling,” said Shelley.

Shelley had a brain injury, multiple broken bones and nerve damage.

“She came in real broken,” said Heather Cunningham, Shelley’s mother.

“Before the wreck, she did everything on her own, and then all of the sudden, she has to take a shower with somebody, have people help her to the bathroom,” her mother described.

For Shelley, regaining her ability to walk was a priority from the beginning of her rehabilitation.

“My goal was to, you know, to start walking again. And I guess, prom, like, I kind of like wanted to walk into it, like, I wanted to walk. And just having that like as a goal kind of pushed prom even more.”

Fast forward to the day before heading home, Shelley goes over everything to do before the big event just days away.

“I have to get my hair done, my makeup done. And I have to get my dress on and then we’re going to take professional photos, and after that we’re going to dinner somewhere.”

All part of a returning to a normal life as a teenager.

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