Former Patient Begins Yearlong Foreign Assignment after Graduating College
Ashley Stone, 23, of Lawrenceville, Ga., is out of her element these days – and she loves it.
Ashley is in Galicia, Spain, beginning a yearlong assignment teaching English, through a Spanish Ministry of Education program. The overseas adventure is the culmination of a horizon-broadening senior year at the University of Georgia. There, the recent Magna Cum Laude graduate got involved with a Bible study group that focused on reaching out to international students. Ashley also pushed herself physically, taking a backpacking and camping class that featured hiking and canoeing trips.
“A few years ago, I would have been too afraid to do all of these things,” Ashley said. “But I’m a lot less fearful now. This is my life. We all die some at some point. I want to try all the things I really want to do.”
She says her life was “easy and comfortable” up until two years ago, when she sustained an acquired brain injury in a car accident. As part of Ashley’s recovery, she spent two months at Shepherd Center. She says creative outlets spurred her breakthroughs. A nurse gave her a hand-held, dry-erase board, and Ashley drew picture after picture, gaining confidence as her mind begin to work in concert again with the rest of her body.
She also met a fellow patient who sang and played the guitar, as Ashley did. “My motor skills were so off then, I couldn’t play guitar. But I could sing,” she said. “His vocal cords were so damaged he couldn’t sing. But he could play guitar!” The duo even performed publicly at the Peach Corps’ Spring Fling at Shepherd Center.
Her creativity continues to bloom. A Spanish major and horticulture minor, Ashley plans to merge her interests in a single pursuit: agroforestry. The field involves finding ways to grow crops in forested land; it’s a source of optimism in communities on the Amazon River, for instance, where slash-and-burn agriculture contributes to deforestation.
“It shows a lot of promise, and it’s a bold idea,” Ashley said. “I like that. Helping nature and helping people are two of my favorite things.”
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, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. Ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals for rehabilitation and the best in the Southeast, Shepherd Center treats more than 850 inpatients and 7,600 outpatients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.