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news News Thursday, April 12, 2018 Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:03 AM - Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:03 AM

Former patient inspires others, after Shriners Hospital team inspires her

Rebekah shares her experience and how she credits Shriners Hospitals for Children for her ability to walk

Former patient inspires others, after Shriners Hospital team inspires her

Rebekah is a 22-year-old elementary school teacher. As a special needs teacher in Canyon, Texas, she credits her beginnings at Shriners Hospitals, as one of the main reasons why she decided to dedicate her life to changing the lives of children. “I accepted my first teaching job in January. Now, I am walking, working with children and doing amazing things because Shriners Hospitals got me up on my feet”.

Born with cerebral palsy, Rebekah was told by many doctors that she would never be able to walk. The condition affects her from the waist down and she was wheelchair bound in the early years of her life. Speaking in depth about her condition she shared the following, “My parents were told that I wouldn’t walk because my muscle tone was so high. My muscles were so tight that it was impossible for me to put my heel on the ground. I wasn’t even able to straighten my knees.”

It wasn’t until Rebekah’s aunt, a physical therapist, attended a conference focused on soft tissue release surgery at Shriners Hospitals, that her destiny would change. “My aunt heard about the hospital for the first time and about how devoted they were to each individual patient, and the love they have for what they do. It sounded like this would work miracles for me." So in August of 2003, Rebekah made the 11-hour drive from Canyon to Houston and met with Allison C. Scott, M.D.

By December, Rebekah had the soft tissue release procedure and started rehabilitation with one of the physical therapists, Janet, who would continue to be with Rebekah throughout her entire journey. After receiving care from the medical and therapy team, Rebekah was walking with the support of a walker. “This was something big for me, since I had been wheelchair bound.Being able to walk was an absolute miracle!” she stated.

Rebekah’s determination and the care and support of the tremendous team behind her, led her to her next accomplishment. She explains, “As I progressed in therapy, by the time I was 9 years old, I was walking independently. This was an absolute miracle. I was so grateful that the Lord had brought us to Shriners Hospital.”

At a young age, Rebekah shared that she wanted to dance and do ballet. She was able to make this a reality after her first surgery. “It had seemed like something utterly impossible, but now after being taken to the hospital, I was able to take my first dance class. This care helped me dance for nine years!”

In 2009, when she was 13, Rebekah’s case was turned over to Douglas A. Barnes, M.D. Dr. Barnes, would perform her second major surgery. Another obstacle, had come her way. “The bone in my foot had never formed correctly. I was walking on the insides of my foot and I did not have arches on my feet,” she describes. Under Dr. Barnes’ care, a procedure was performed to create arches in her feet and provide her with foot braces that would be very effective for her.

Throughout her care at the Houston Shriners Hospital, Rebekah went through various braces, Botulinum A injections and continued rehabilitation. Overall, her journey in the hospital lasted 12 years. This progress is visually reflected through the video footage that the Motion Analysis Center (MAC) has of her from her first appointment to her last. Many memories of her experience at the hospital stay with Rebekah.

She shared some of her standout moments from physical therapy, “I remember that I wasn’t always very kind to my physical therapist, Janet. During my first therapy session with her, I was very unpleasant and rude. I’ll never forget screaming at her the whole time, yet she would still be patient with me and do whatever she could to make me smile. I remember one time, my parents had bought me a camera and I used it during therapy. My favorite thing to do was take pictures of Janet, who was always very entertaining during these sessions. One of my favorites is a picture I took of her sticking her tongue out. She was always constantly loving and I know I made it difficult for her, but she never quit or gave up on me. “

The care and attention of Dr. Scott and Barnes also lives on in Rebekah’s memory, “I was very young when I first met Dr. Scott. Although there is not much that I remember, I know she talked to me and explained the surgery to me. She was very kind. When my case was given to Dr. Barnes, he explained things to me as well and told me that he was going to help my walking to remain steady.”

During her last visits to the hospital, and now at an older age, Rebekah felt that she had to show gratitude to the Shriners Hospital team. This was first done by giving her therapist, Janet, a Starbucks gift card as a thank you and apology for “screaming so much during sessions." Rebekah has thanked Dr. Scott on various occasions when she has seen her in passing, through the hospital.

A recent, major goal was to express her gratitude to Dr. Barnes. “I always wanted to give him a hug. During an outreach clinic in Amarillo, I gathered up the courage to do this. He is such an amazing and caring person and I wanted to make sure he knew that.”

The care at Shriners Hospital has not only kept this 22-year-old up on her feet today, it has also helped inspire her career path. She shares that seeing other patients in the hospital made choosing a college major an easy decision, “At 15 or 16 years of age, I was one of the older patients in the hospital. Many children with disabilities would be all around me and I knew I wanted to work with them one day.” So, Rebekah attended college at West Texas A&M and majored in special education. Today, she changes lives just like those that made an impact on her.

This experienced teacher, who at one point thought she would not walk, has some words of advice for current and future patients, “Doubts and fears are always something understandable. At times there are things that may hurt and that are not fun. However, the doctors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, and the entire team here will change your life. You may not realize that these people will do this, but what they do is bigger than themselves and they care. From the first day you may walk into that physical therapy gym, you have to be able to give them that one extra stretch, one more exercise...and you have to keep going. Every child that walks into this hospital is greater and stronger than they can ever believe.”

Rebekah, cerebral palsy patient, through the years

Rebekah in therapy Rebekah with doctors