Woman battles back from spinal cord injury

Published: November 8, 2007  |  Source: mysanantonio.com
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A San Antonio woman has made a remarkable recovery from an accident that could have left her bedridden.

Her story of recovery is nothing short of a miracle and an inspiration to the medical professionals who nursed her back to health.

Ann Nelson’s story is one of hope, hard work and healing. Nelson was the outdoors type, a fishing buff and horsewoman. Last year, she was riding on a ranch west of San Antonio when she fell, breaking her neck and injuring her spinal cord.

An airlife helicopter rushed her to Universal Hospital, where she spent five weeks in the ICU. Doctors had to insert a screw in her neck to piece her back together.

“Basically, I guess the best way to say it is I have the Christopher Reeve break,” Nelson said. “A break of the first and second Vertebrae. I couldn’t move. I mean, I was paralyzed.”

Nelson spent seven weeks at the Acute rehabilitation Center at St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital.

“She could not walk, could not talk, could not turn in bed without help,” said Dr. Alasdair Goldstein, a Rehabilitation medicine specialist. “She had much to overcome.”

At age 70, Nelson had to learn the simplest of tasks all over again, from swallowing food to speaking, to learning how to walk, tiny step by tiny step.

“You just have to learn everything in your body all over again,” she said.

A team of rehab specialists – physical, occupational and speech therapists – helped Nelson regain her life skills. Her doctors say her recovery is a miraculous testimony to the power of the human brain to retrain the body.

“It’s really impressive when you see an older individual who is able to overcome such significant injuries,” Goldstein said. “I think it’s testimony to the strength of the person.”

“I can do everything I ever did before I had my accident, but it’s harder, takes more time, and by nighttime, I’m tired,” Nelson said. “But I’m here.”

Nelson considers herself about three-quarters recovered, and she continues her therapy at home. She’s back to fly-fishing, but she’s vowed to never get back on a horse.

Wendy Rigby
KENS 5 Eyewitness News