REHAB AND RELATIVES: Miraculous Recovery From Spinal Cord Injury Achieved Through Therapy, Family
Almost Two Years Later, Randolph Woman Is Still Defying the Odds
BRAINTREE, Mass., July 19, 2006 - On September 19, 2004, Diane Niles of Randolph was out with her cheerleading daughter. As her daughter performed a cartwheel, Niles pointed out what she thought was a flaw in her daughter's form. Her daughter responded by saying, "Why don't you show me how to do it?"
The 40-year-old Niles obliged, but as she reached the middle of the stunt, her arm gave out, causing her to hit her chin and cheek. She fell backwards onto the ground, and felt a burning sensation from her neck to her toes. She was unable to move: face down in the dirt, she could feel nothing. Ironically, her husband had warned her not to do it, telling her she would be sore for days afterwards. But he never expected this.
After her husband called 911, Niles was taken to South Shore Hospital. At first, doctors thought she might have suffered spinal shock. They gave her steroid shots, which can have a positive impact with spinal cord patients if administered immediately. Feeling that she needed more help than they could offer, Niles was sent to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.
At Beth Israel Deaconess, Niles was told the worst: she had suffered a serious spinal cord injury and was diagnosed as an incomplete C5 quadriplegic. She underwent surgery on September 20 to repair the injury. For Niles, time had virtually stood still.
"From the time they took me off the front lawn until I woke up from surgery at Deaconess seemed like an hour, but it was well over 20 hours."
After a few days' recovery at BI, she went to Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital (HBRH) to begin her inpatient rehab program. When she arrived, she had absolutely no movement. She was turned in her bed every hour to avoid bedsores, and she had to be lifted manually to do anything. She was put on an intensive physical and occupational therapy program, which included range of motion with her arms and legs.
Despite the great care and the constant therapy, the hospital staff was a bit skeptical about her chances for recovery. But Niles surprised everyone - including herself. In three weeks she was able to sit up and shortly thereafter, she was able to move her feet, starting with her toes. She was soon able to walk with a walker, then with a cane. She soon learned to dress and feed herself. Miraculously, she has all of her mobility back and movement in all her extremities.
Niles left HBRH on January 8, 2005. She began an outpatient rehab program in July 2005 that ended in May 2006 - almost one year. During that time, she not only regained additional function, she began to drive. She credits several things for this amazing recovery.
"My husband Michael is my guardian angel," Niles said. "He has been right by my side the whole way. He built a ramp on our house and has done more things for me than I can count. And my kids have been a huge driving force for me as well; they need their mother, not in a wheelchair, not in a bed, but fully functional.
"But ultimately, I never would be where I am without the care I got at Braintree Rehab. Those people were a godsend."
Her extended family and friends also played an important role, staging a huge fund raiser in November 2005 to defray the cost of Niles's expensive care. Niles still maintains her goal of returning to work at Walker Associates in Boston, where she is involved in collection and billing. Anyone betting against her would be wise to heed her simple yet powerful words:
"I'll never quit."
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