In 2011, six months after leaving Shepherd Center and returning home, Courtney Young, now 24, looked out over a crowd of high school students and delivered a warning wrapped in a blanket of hope.
Courtney first explained what happened to her on October 23, 2010. Back then, she was an 18-year-old college freshman, driving to her part-time job, when she looked down to text a message on her phone. The next sound Courtney heard was gravel grinding as she veered off road. The resulting one-car accident left Courtney with a T-3-to-T-4 spinal cord injury, as well as a minor traumatic brain injury and an assortment of broken bones.
“As I shared my story that first time, I realized that I really had two messages to share,” she says. “One, of course, is that texting and driving is always a really bad idea. But, two, just as important, is that you can always come back from anything you’ve done, you can always overcome what seems most difficult.”
Courtney has now spoken at more than a dozen schools and churches in northeast Arkansas. She says her own comeback began at Shepherd Center.
“Growing up in a small town, I didn’t know anybody like me, anybody who’d been paralyzed,” Courtney says. “I figured I’d have to go sit in a nursing home.”
The relentless positivity and encouragement she received from her physical and occupational therapists transformed Courtney’s assumptions. By the end of her six-month stay at Shepherd Center – she completed both inpatient and day program rehabilitation – Courtney had largely regained her independence.
Back home, Courtney earned an associate’s degree in education, and a certificate in coding and billing. Today, she is a patient accounts representative at a local hospital. She also spends time outdoors, having fallen in love with kayaking during one of Shepherd Center’s annual Adventure Skills Workshops. She’d like to try skydiving and open-mic comedy next.
“Before my accident, my mom would tell people who asked about me that she had no idea how I was doing because I was never home,” Courtney says with a laugh. “Now, she can say that again!”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Dara Bramel/DB Photography
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org