Atlanta, GA,
10:31 AM

Finding Balance

Care from Shepherd Center’s Complex Concussion Clinic helps Jana Smith get back to what she loves.

When Jana Smith, an Atlanta mom of three, was 41, she developed Bell’s palsy — muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the face. It was so severe that she had difficulty eating. Surgery to remove a bone in her skull reduced the pressure on her facial nerves, alleviating some of her symptoms. However, the palsy still inhibited her ability to smile fully.

Soon after her surgery, Jana began training to be a yoga teacher. She finds significant meaning in sharing yoga with others.

“I can't fully smile on the outside, but I don't feel it anymore. Helping others grow and be stronger helped me love myself in a different way,” she explains.

Last year, during a bout with Covid, Jana got up in the middle of the night and fainted, hitting her head near where part of her skull had been removed years earlier. She sustained a concussion which resulted in severe vertigo.

Her neighbor, a neurologist, recommended the Complex Concussion Clinic (CCC) at Shepherd Center. The team at the CCC began planning how to treat her vertigo, using infrared videonystagmography (VNG) goggles to detect Jana’s eye movements and measure central motor function.

Jana visited the CCC two to three times a week for physical therapy.

“We did tons of exercises, and it was neat because I had such good balance from practicing yoga, they had to put me on a big foam block to challenge me more,” she explains.

Russell Gore, M.D., medical director of the CCC, also gave her a series of nerve blocks to reduce the pain in the back of her head.

Finally, she was able to return to teaching yoga. Unfortunately, vertigo returned, so Jana returned to the CCC for more physical therapy. Her physical therapist taught her exercises she could do at home. Now Jana’s feeling better and back to doing what she loves. And she continues to share her story.

“It's amazing to think back to what a long way I've come. I don't know what I would have done without everyone at the CCC. With all the different things that have happened to me, I try to teach people that you can overcome obstacles and get stronger.”

Written by Ruth Underwood

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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.