Atlanta, GA,
11:03 AM

Case Manager Talks About the Patient Who Changed Her

Shannon Stroppel, MSW, learned life lessons from former Shepherd Center patient Luke Putney and his mom.

Shannon Stroppel, MSW, a case manager in Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Rehabilitation Program, remembers the day she met Luke Putney’s mother and heard her son’s story.

“I told her my life would be different from that day on,” Stroppel says. “And it was.”

Luke was born blind in one eye, and at age 12, he began losing sight in the other. He had brain surgery for an aneurysm compressing on an optic nerve and was completely blind by 16.

Yet Luke remained a top student, musician and wrestler in high school, while also raising money to distribute musical instruments to children recovering in hospitals.

After graduating summa cum laude from Belmont University in 2017, Luke founded Instrumental Horizons, a charitable organization that distributes instruments internationally. He traveled for a month that summer to South America.

When he returned with a massive headache, doctors discovered a brain tumor. Shortly after surgery, he had a stroke. Following 48 days at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he transferred to Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.

Luke arrived in excruciating pain. Yet he was resolutely uncomplaining. His rehabilitation goal was to return to his charity work. Today, Luke is raising money for marginalized communities in Cape Town, South Africa. This fall, determined to triumph over brain tumors, a stroke, blindness and chronic pain, Luke is not only re-learning to walk, but he’s doing a marathon and creating new music to benefit children in South Africa. He will be walking a mile a day for 26 days, and 100% of the money he raises will be donated to MusicWorks, a program that provides musical instruments, music education and music therapy to children in Cape Town. 

“I don’t hold everyone to the Luke Putney bar – that is so high,” Stroppel says. “He’s such a powerful, humble, beautiful soul.”

While everyone’s healing journey is unique, Stroppel says she does think of Luke whenever she encounters patients in severe pain. “It gives me hope that, though they may not see it, the end is in sight here,” she says. “It can get better. Don’t give up.”

Her experience with Luke and his mother, Nancy Hoddinott, has also altered the way Stroppel, 46, approaches daily stresses in her own life.

“I look at life differently as a parent and as a human being,” she says. “I know the power of keeping your mind in a positive state, like Luke and his mother did. I never sweat small stuff. At all.”

Written by Drew Jubera

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.