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news News Monday, September 28, 2020 Monday, September 28, 2020 5:50 PM - Monday, September 28, 2020 5:50 PM

Teen continues to thrive after spinal cord injury

Teen continues to thrive after spinal cord injury

More than a year after sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI), Jonica has been focusing on her new abilities. Whether that means learning to do things she was able to do before differently, or experiencing new moments for the first time, she focuses on making things possible.

After spending three months in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston in early 2019, the 19-year-old said she learned to rebuild herself physically and mentally. Jonica’s SCI damaged her C5 and C6 vertebrae, causing her to experience partial paralysis. “I remember when I was first at Shriners, I was so weak, I was not able to brush my own teeth or brush my hair, and now I can do all my self-care without help,” Jonica said. “I can push my own wheelchair whenever I go out. Just simple things that were hard to I accomplish, now I can easily do it.”

Jonica kept an optimistic attitude from the very beginning. She said the main thing for her was to not give up. “The fact that although your life may have changed and you will have to do things physically different, you are still you. You may still have your family around you and your friends. You’re still alive and able to experience new things, and that’s something worth holding onto,” Jonica said.

During her time in the inpatient rehabilitation unit, Jonica was an inspiration to patients and staff members. Her treatment included a rigorous schedule of physical, occupational and recreational therapies. No matter how demanding her goals were, she always found a way to keep pushing forward.

“All the staff I worked with became family to me,” Jonica said. “They helped me through probably one of the worst times of my life and they made it so much easier while I was there. They helped me through all those hard times and motivated me to keep pushing myself.”

Jonica said she continues to do therapies at home, and has learned to use different assistive devices that help her accomplish daily tasks, like going to school. She was accepted into the National Honor Society and is close to completing her associate degree. Her next goal is to attend a four-year university and enroll in a business program.

“I have found that pretty much anything I want to do, or enjoyed doing prior to my SCI is still very much possible. Just because I got into an accident doesn’t change the fact that you are still beautiful, someone can still be there for you and love you,” Jonica said.