From Near and Far
Ronnie Brinegar, Benton, Ky
Ronnie Brinegar, 40, of Benton, Ky., is a longtime fishing tournament director for FLW Outdoors. Since his five-month stay at Shepherd Center for a C-4 spinal cord injury he sustained in an automobile accident in July 2010, Ronnie has found a new way to use his fishing connections.
Last September, he sent a check for more than $4,000 to Shepherd Center. With the check was a note: “I was a patient there 7-1-10 thru 12-3-10 on a sip-and-puff chair with no movement from the neck down. I’m now typing this letter.
“This money was made thru the first ever Ronnie Brinegar Shepherd Center Fishing Tournament, which [will] be a yearly event from this year forward. Continue to keep performing miracles!”
He’s serious about the miracles. “Those first three months there, they kept having me do these exercises,” he recalls, “but I couldn’t move anything from my neck down. I thought they were crazy. I was thinking, ‘Why are they bothering to do this?’”
Gradually, however, Ronnie’s fingers began to respond. For the first time after his car accident, he regained some movement in his arms. Today, he can dress himself, write letters and straighten his legs.
“That’s a place of angels,” Ronnie says of Shepherd Center. “Without their pushing, I wouldn’t have made it to this point. Period.”
With the support of his wife, Stephanie, and his 4-year-old son, Fisher, he wants to return to Shepherd Center this year for another stint in the SCI Day Program to keep working on his legs.
“I couldn’t get out of there fast enough the first time,” Ronnie says. “Now, I understand why it’s worth it. Now I can’t get back there fast enough.”
Kristyn Osterhaus, Paynesville, MN
Kristyn Osterhaus,19, of Paynesville, Minn., will forever remember July 3. It was the day she sustained a C-6 to -7 spinal cord injury when thrown from the backseat of a friend’s Jeep. But it’s also the date that her service dog, a Golden Retriever-Poodle mix named Max, was born.
“I got him on Jan. 8, 2012, and when I asked how old he was they told me his birthday,” Kristyn says. “It was a goosebumps kind of thing.”
Kristyn returned to the Atlanta this past January to train with Max – more than a year after her four-month stay at Shepherd Center, where she learned just how much she could do despite being paralyzed from the chest down. While in town in January, Kristyn visited with several of her Shepherd Center treatment team members.
“Cathi Dugger, my physical therapist, Cindy Hartley, my occupational therapist, and Cheryl Linden, my counselor: I can always fall back on them if I need some advice or just a little push,” Kristyn says. “Along with a couple of patients, they were my core Shepherd family.”
Kristyn is excited about starting college this fall at the University of Illinois, where she was accepted into the Beckwith Program for students with significant disabilities. For now, she’s surrounded by family in Minnesota, volunteering at an elementary school and taking an online class in microeconomics.
“Oh my gosh, when I think of all the ways my family has helped me get where I am today,” Kristyn says, “I have all the support and confidence I need.”
Kelly Green, Atlanta, GA
Kelly Green, 42, of Atlanta, Ga., learned about Shepherd Center’s water aerobics rehabilitation program for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) patients during a seminar on the condition in 2008. Today, she is a Shepherd Center ambassador singing the program’s benefits.
“There’s a camaraderie you get here,” Kelly says. “And it’s not just about getting your body active; it’s getting your mind active. You are challenged in so many different ways.”
For the past few years, she has continued to participate in water aerobics, along with yoga and other outpatient physical rehabilitation therapies. She has also joined Shepherd Center’s Promotion gym.
For 13 years, Kelly developed marketing campaigns for record companies in New York City. She started as an intern at Bad Boys Records in 1993 and eventually became senior director of marketing for Universal Motown Records.
In Atlanta since 2006, Kelly has transferred her marketing skills to a new career as a branding strategist for entrepreneurs. “It’s very similar to what I did for music artists and record labels.” Kelly says, “I’m just helping other people identify how they can create a brand for themselves to attract more business.”
Last spring, she organized a workshop for patients at Shepherd Center, sharing how they could redefine their own brands when getting back to work.
“I know what it is to live with a life-changing condition or injury,” Kelly says. “I wanted them to know they all have special skills to promote, no matter what their physical condition.”
Randy Shampney, Warner, NH
Randy Shampney, 41, of Warner, N.H., laid unconscious on Nov. 16, 2010. He was inspecting a steel beam when it sprung loose and slammed him in the head. His brother, Mike, was there when it happened.
“Mike thought I was dead,” he says.
Randy was still alive, but the blow left him with a severe brain injury, as well as skull, eye, back and nerve damage. He spent two months at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H. Then, Randy came to Shepherd Center in January 2011 for seven months of rehabilitation.
“Mike stayed with me the whole time,” Randy says. “He’s just a great brother.”
With Randy’s wife, Heather, at home with their four kids, Mike helped see his brother through some exhausting exercises. “My balance was the main thing,” Randy says. “My brain was going about a million miles an hour. I had to get my mind past the shock. But I was also doing a lot of work with my legs and arms, and my core, too.”
Today, he can think and speak clearly with his three sons and daughter. Navigating his house is also a victory given all the children, toys and pets sharing the home.
Mike is back at work now, doing Randy’s old job until he can return. That’s the ultimate goal in Randy’s recovery.
“I feel closer now after my time at Shepherd,” he says. “The people there really know what’s going on. They do their job and then they do more than their job, whatever they can to help you.”
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.