Atlanta, GA,
08:50 AM

Beyond Therapy Delivers Motivation and Support

After years of feeling alone in her efforts to manage illness, Stephanie Surbaugh Payne was thrilled to discover the team at Beyond Therapy®.

“If you all don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on myself.”

That’s what Stephanie Surbaugh Payne told the therapists at Shepherd Center’s Beyond Therapy® program during her intake interview last August.

Since childhood, Stephanie has been living with mobility, balance, and muscle weakness, which were initially misdiagnosed as muscular dystrophy and largely untreated, leaving her feeling hopeless and defeated.

After experiencing new symptoms in 2019, Stephanie was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where a team of doctors discovered Stephanie’s symptoms were caused by a rare disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy.

Following her new diagnosis, Stephanie fell twice within 11 months — the second fall shattered her L-1 vertebrae and resulted in a kyphoplasty, a surgical procedure to stabilize her back.

Hoping to regain some independence, Stephanie came to Shepherd Center in April 2022 for both inpatient and outpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation. “For the first time in my life, I have found a team of people who believe in me,” Stephanie says. “And that has motivated me not to give up on myself.”

While at Shepherd Center, she learned compensatory strategies to offset her balance issues and worked on gaining muscle strength and endurance. As she progressed, she practiced transitioning from sitting to standing as well as balancing for short periods of time. Although she continued to improve, she wasn’t where she wanted to be. Before her falls, she could walk around her house independently and outside with the help of walking sticks. She hoped to get back to that point.

That’s why she chose to continue her rehabilitation in Shepherd Center’s Beyond Therapy® program, a rigorous activity-based program that combines physical therapy and exercise physiology.

“When it comes to exercise, I’m a quitter,” Stephanie admits. “I need someone to believe in me and motivate me. And that’s exactly what the team at Beyond Therapy does.”

Since August 2022, Stephanie has progressed from standing to walking short distances on a treadmill without holding the rails to, most recently, walking five laps around the gym’s basketball court without mobility aids.

Now Stephanie – who also owns a math tutoring business – has expanded her goals beyond walking independently around her house. She wants to be able to stand in the kitchen long enough to cook dinner, walk the dog with her husband, and go shopping by herself.

She admits that Beyond Therapy is “incredibly intense,” and it is a financial commitment since the program is not covered by insurance, but she believes it is the key to achieving her goals.

“I always look forward to going,” says Stephanie, who attends Beyond Therapy twice a week for two hours each day. “It’s a real community. The therapists are creative and innovative, and they have taken the time and the care to get to know me and my body to help me the best way they can. I have never had that level of dedication. It’s so motivating.”

Written by Sara Baxter

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About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.