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It Takes a Village: Finding Support & Community Among Mothers

When Marci Roche and Kristin Replogle met, they had no idea they would be each other’s biggest support during their children’s rehabilitation. Now, they continue to lean on each other and provide support for caregivers of children with spinal cord injuries

Shepherd Center is known for its culture and deep sense of community from the C-suite to the staff and patients. So, when their children all sustained spinal cord injuries, Marci Roche and Kristin Replogle learned to lean on one another and the moms of other patients for support, advice, or a walk around the garden.

It was September of 2022 when the Roche family checked into Shepherd Center’s donor-funded family housing unit for the second time. Brian had already attended Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program as an inpatient and had completed one round of outpatient rehabilitation. This time, the family met Frank, a fellow spinal cord injury patient, and his wife, Jess, who were known around the center for hosting Sunday afternoon barbecues in the family housing garden.

“Every weekend we would barbecue, and everyone would bring something. We would play games, and the patients would all talk about what they did that day in therapy,” says Marci. “It was something for us to look forward to that just felt normal. We didn’t go anywhere on the weekends because we didn’t need to; we had each other.”

It was at one of these get-togethers that Marci met Kristin Replogle and her daughter Tate. As their children got to know each other, so did the moms.

“We learned that Tate and Brian had the same level of spinal cord injury,” explains Marci. “I told them that this time last year, Brian used a wheelchair, and now he could walk. So, we started talking about what we did for Brian’s rehabilitation.”

“Marci really helped us because we could look at life a year from now through them,” says Kristin. “So, watching them gave us the motivation to keep going. Then I met another mom, and we would walk together every day. The fellowship with them was just as important as therapy.”

After Marci told Kristin that Brian participated in Project Walk, an organization that provides activity-based recovery programs for people affected by paralysis or mobility-related disorders and neurological conditions, in between visits to Shepherd Center, Kristin and Tate began their research, and now Tate attends Project Walk in Boston to maintain her progress.

“I read somewhere that your journey is someone else’s roadmap,” explains Marci. “I really feel like that’s true for us. We can help others by sharing our experiences.”

From there, the women created a bond that has carried them through some of the hardest moments in their lives.

“You feel immediately bonded because you’re all going through this together,” says Kristin. “When there’s a problem, it’s not just me trying to figure it out; there are three or four of us sitting together to figure it out. We are the kids’ number one cheerleaders. I know that these are my lifelong friends.”

Today, Brian and Tate are making phenomenal progress in their rehabilitation. At the same time, their moms have continued to extend that feeling of community beyond their small circle to other caregivers.

“I feel called to do this,” says Kristin. “I remember when I first got to Shepherd Center, I was connected with another mom there. She texted me and got me through it. This person is a stranger, but you immediately have this Shepherd mom connection because we have this shared experience as moms living through this detour together.”

When asked what advice they would give to other moms in the same situation, they had this to say:

“Look at things frame by frame instead of the whole film,” says Kristin. “Breaking things down into chunks helps. Also, find your people and let them in on your journey. They will give you the mental support you need to be the best caregiver you can be.”

“Ask questions!” says Marci. “I was always willing to talk about Brian’s story, and that’s what really helped us. Sure, we had stumbles along the way, but hearing what someone else did helps you see things in a different way.”

Written by Lindsey Rieben 

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.