In Her Own Words: Nikki’s Healing Journey

Nikki working out at home.

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Magee has helped tens of thousands of individuals with spinal cord injuries achieve their highest levels of independence.

Nicole Walsh first came to Magee in 2018 following a devastating car accident on the Northeast Extension of the PA turnpike. Throughout her two year healing journey, Nikki has demonstrated courage, bravery and tremendous drive. We asked her to share some of her story and where she is at today:

I was injured two years ago in a severe car accident, which left me paralyzed from the chest down. The gravity of the situation did not really hit me until I arrived at Magee. That’s when a spinal cord injury impairment test determined my injury to be considered a T2 Asia A Complete. This meant the spinal cord injury was so severe that I could not feel or move anything below my chest. It was a shocking realization, but I was determined not to let a test define what I am able to do, and what my future prognosis would be.

An outpatient therapy session at Magee Riverfront in 2019

Here I am today with the same goal—to walk again.  After I was discharged from Magee as an inpatient, I decided that I would not go home and lay in bed and just be depressed.  As uncomfortable as I was in my new body and the impact that it had on my life, I made myself get out of the house and get back to living. I know that I would not be where I am today if I had crawled into bed and gave into the depression.

I had to re-evaluate how I was going to continue living my life with paralysis to the best of my abilities. After finishing Magee’s Day Rehab program, I continued with my outpatient therapy. I joined Magee’s Wellness gym to use the stimulation bikes, as well as allowing me to socialize with others with similar experiences. I continued to work out at home and got a personal trainer.  I did all of these things to get my headspace back to the Nikki I was before I became paralyzed.

Working out at home

During this time, though, I was depressed. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I lost a part of myself, and my life changed in an instant. However, over time, I learned to accept these emotions and embrace them. I had plenty of sad days where I did just lay in bed and cry, wondering why this had to happen to me, and feeling sorry for myself, especially when my body was in a lot pain. I am here to tell you that that is completely okay. That is how you heal, by embracing the feelings of the trauma you went through and trying to move past it. That is how I am healing.

Going out of house and venturing into the world did give me a lot of anxiety. It still does from time to time, because of having bladder accidents. I have been getting botox injections into my bladder, which has helped, but it still has not been perfect. I also have a hard time getting to the edge of my wheelchair to be able to go to the bathroom in my chair (yes men, don’t have this issue).

Going on a walk with her dog, Kato.

After giving it much thought, and speaking to my urologist, I’ve decided to have a procedure done where I am able to catheterize through my belly button. (I know, seems very odd!)  But I also know that it will finally give me the complete independence that I need, especially since I just passed my driver’s test with the adaptable equipment! Everyone’s journey is different, but this is going to help me have the best quality of life. That is all I can hope for as a wheelchair user.

Passing her drivers exam

I have not given up. I am happy to say that two years later, through hard work and extensive therapy sessions, I am now considered a T2 Asia B Incomplete! (This means the ability of spinal cord  to convey messages to or from the brain is not completely lost.) I have acquired new sensations. I have feelings in my muscles all the way to my legs now, which is super exciting. I never thought that this day would ever come, where I could feel someone touching my leg, but here it is. I have hope and faith that my legs will start moving again, they just need a little more time to relax. Whatever your goals may be, you must never give up on your healing journey!

Click here to read more about Nikki’s story that we originally posted in 2019.

See Nikki walking with the robotic exoskeleton during an outpatient session with Magee physical therapist, Liz Watson

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