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Former Patient Shows Exercises Can Be a Key to Healing

Commitment to exercising at home after discharge from Shepherd Center is paying off for an Atlanta woman.

Patients at Shepherd Center are doing more than just recovering from a brain or spinal cord injury; they are learning a new way of life. Part of that new way of life often includes exercise. Upon discharge, patients typically get exercise recommendations from their treatment team. Some patients follow those recommendations and reap benefits from them, while others do not.

A former patient who exemplifies the benefits of continued exercise at home is Sabrena McGuire of Atlanta. In 2013, at the young age of 23, she was living on her own and working at TGI Fridays at the Atlanta airport. She had always been independent and smart, having graduated high school when she was 16, so when she began experiencing constant headaches, she just took medicine and went to work. One day when she was at work, she fainted. When she returned home from the hospital, she received a phone call telling her to report back; she had a mass on her brain.

After surgery and a brief stay in an acute-care hospital, she came to Shepherd Center for brain injury rehabilitation and then discharged to return home after a little more than a month. That’s where exercising really paid off.

“She’s had a tremendous turnaround,” said Sabrena’s mother, Shamika McGuire. “She went from being in a wheelchair to walking with a cane, and now she can walk independently.”

The exercises weren’t easy, Sabrena said, and there were a lot of them. Some were designed to strengthen her feet and ankles. Some focused on her hips, while others strengthened her back and shoulders.

“When she first got out of inpatient, she was walking very slowly,” said Laura Glazebrook, an outpatient physical therapist at Shepherd Pathways. “She had a really hard time taking weight on her left leg, and she got tired very easily. By doing her exercises she was able to walk longer distances, at a faster speed, with less assistance.”

“After the exercises, she can walk independently with the assistance of a leg brace. She can bathe, brush her teeth, feed herself and go to the restroom by herself,” her mom added. “She’s also learned to write a little bit with her right hand.”

Glazebrook said she has a lot of patients who don’t do their exercises everyday and she can see the difference.

“If you’re doing your exercises consistently, you’re probably going to achieve your strength goals in half the time, than you would if you were not doing things at home and were solely relying on your therapist to do the work,” said Glazebrook.

Shamika continues to work with her daughter every day to do an hour of exercise in the morning, and sometimes they add an hour in the evening, as well.

“It’s amazing how those exercises have helped her,” Shamika said. “You have to keep doing them. You can't just go and leave thinking, ‘I go to Shepherd Center three days a week and that's that.’ You have to go home and apply those things. I think if we hadn’t applied them, she wouldn't be as far along as she is today.”

But the McGuires believe that because Sabrena exercises, she’s progressed much further than anyone thought possible.

“The doctors told me it may be 10 years before you do this, 10 years before you can do that. They didn’t know,” Sabrena said. “Now they say, ‘You can do this?’ There was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know how to do, but I can do it now.”

Shamika added: “It works. She still does the exercises every day.”

If you’re interested in starting an exercise program, Shepherd Center offers personal training sessions, as well as an accessible workout facility called ProMotion located at the hospital. A personal trainer can help clients develop an at-home exercise program in three session for $138. Or, clients can join ProMotion and use its facilities for a $100 initiation fee plus a $180 membership fee payable every six months. For more information, call 404-350-7789 or visit the gym’s web page.

Written by David Terraso
Photos by Louie Favorite


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.