Former Shepherd Center Patient Embraces Newlywed Life and a New Venture
Erin Michelle Stewart Widick, 27, of Columbus, Ga., has embraced many new beginnings since leaving Shepherd Center eight years ago. She married her husband, Michael, a U.S. Army Ranger. This past March, the pair had their first child, Jameson. Erin also earned her bachelor’s degree in business marketing. Two years ago, she put that degree to work when she and her sister, Leah, opened a clothing boutique.
“Even with everything going on, I’m hoping that I still haven’t done that one thing yet that I’m most proud of,” Erin says. “That’s still to come! I’ve got so much more to live.”
She was 19 years old when she sustained a C-6 incomplete spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia following a car accident. At Shepherd Center, Erin’s spinal cord injury rehabilitation was delayed due to a punctured lung. When she finally started therapy, she could move only the big toe on her left foot. Atrophied muscles further slowed Erin’s progress.
“I remember one day just crying because I was so mad that I couldn’t walk,” she says. “I yelled, ‘I want to get out of this bed!’ My physical therapist said, ‘Well, do it.’ She said she’d catch me if I passed out, and I was angry enough that I actually walked a few steps.”
Soon after, Erin was competing against fellow patients to see who could walk the longest during locomotor training sessions. Eventually, she walked out of Shepherd Center using only forearm crutches.
“The people at Shepherd Center are a blessing,” Erin says. “The therapy, yes, but also the emotional support. For me, that was just as important. My biggest thing was not giving up. Setting goals, reaching them and setting new goals. After sessions, I’d go back to my room and keep doing things on my own. Even if it was something small. Just keep pushing forward.”
She’s still pushing forward today, especially when it comes to growing her business, which Erin and her sister christened The Posh Peach (www.theposhpeach.com). “It’s such a fun challenge,” she says. “I’ve always loved clothes and marketing, so I thought, ‘Why not put those passions together?’”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.