Three Years Post Injury: Persistence and Progress

Nicole being playful at home in her wheelchair three years post-injury.

You can usually find Nicole Walsh lifting weights in the gym or at Magee Rehabilitation, where she works as a peer mentor coordinator. She loves to spend time with friends and go to the beach.  She also has a passion for dancing, proving almost anything is possible despite having a spinal cord injury. Three years ago, Nicole couldn’t imagine such a vibrant and joyful life.

“I have fought through so much and I am very proud of how far I have come in that time,” Nicole shared.

Rebuilding Her Body and Her Life

In August 2018, the car Nicole was driving was struck by an SUV and pushed into a tractor trailer. She was paralyzed from the chest down. The crash left her with a T2 incomplete spinal cord injury, six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and lacerations to her head, face and hands. Doctors at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia performed two surgeries on her spine. When her health stabilized, she transferred to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for two months of inpatient rehabilitation.

Physical and occupational therapy sessions helped Nicole build her strength and learn how to live in her new body. She continued her recovery with outpatient rehab at Magee Riverfront. PT sessions targeted her core and posture, strengthened her trunk and legs and stimulated the nerves in her lower body.

“I have gained a lot of core and trunk control throughout my hips. So much that I have been able to push my hips forward when standing,” Nicole said.  “One of my goals is to eventually walk using full leg braces, so I am constantly working to get those muscles firing again.”

New Levels of Independence

Recovering from a spinal cord injury is an arduous task. Nicole’s healing journey tested her physical strength, faith and emotional wellbeing, but she kept pushing day after day. Over time, she learned how to adapt to life using a wheelchair. Her persistence led to more progress and reaching new levels of independence.

“I am very proud of getting my driver’s license. I got into my pool to practice swimming last summer,” Nicole said. “I am pushing myself to try new experiences. I traveled to California by myself last year and that was a big accomplishment.”

Nicole is part of the staff at Magee now, where she matches newly-injured patients with mentors. She aspired to be a personal trainer before her spinal cord injury and she recently started to pursue that dream again. She regularly posts photos and video clips of her workouts on social media to show the world of the inclusivity and possibilities with fitness.

“I got a second chance at life in surviving that accident,” Nicole said. “I’ve encountered a lot of physical and emotional challenges since then and some days are still difficult, but my goal each day is to get stronger than the day before. I am going to keep fighting no matter what.”

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