Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Reality of Hope

Every day I work with individuals whose lives have been drastically changed by paralysis. My job is twofold: first, to provide innovative therapies to help promote recovery and, second, to inspire and motivate my patients to push through the difficult times–sometimes as the encouraging cheerleader, and other times the demanding coach.

In my job, I’ve come to realize that we’re each gifted with a unique set of skills and abilities that allow us to contribute to the world around us. If we’re lucky, perhaps we can even use those talents to inspire and motivate others. But when I started my career in the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute, hoping to make a difference in the lives of my patients, I never expected that my patients would be the ones who constantly inspire and motivate me.

Brian Keefer is a patient whose strength, determination and genuine love for life inspire me in ways that are hard to put into words. In 2008, Brian was paralyzed from the neck down after a gymnastics flip gone awry. Soon after his injury, Brian and his family began making the 140-mile trip from to Kennedy Krieger every day for two weeks during his school breaks. Here, during bouts of intensive therapy, Brian spends five to six hours daily working with our team, all while maintaining a smile and exerting 100-percent effort.

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Autographs

After graduating from college in 2007, I moved to Maryland and learned about Kennedy Krieger’s special education program and knew instantly that I wanted to work there. Kennedy Krieger schools are geared towards preparing students to transition back into their communities and lead successful lives after graduation. I have been working at Kennedy Krieger High School (KKHS) for three years and my students never cease to amaze me. Today, I want to tell you about one of those students whom I’ve known from the start and has impressed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first met him.

I was lucky enough to meet DeVante—a shy, reserved student with an autism spectrum disorder—during my first year here at Kennedy Krieger. When I first started at KKHS I was a teacher’s assistant in an Academy II classroom. During my first week, DeVante visited our classroom and asked to speak with the new staff member, Ms. Bates. He approached me with his head down and in a soft voice, he asked me to sign his “autograph book”. Timidly, DeVante explained that signing the book authorized him to share drawings with that person throughout the school year. As a teaching assistant, I was eager to get to know not only the students in my classroom, but all of the students at KKHS, so of course I said yes! This marked the beginning of learning exactly who DeVante is and who he wants to be. Continue reading

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