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Mother Celebrates Graduation of Son Who Persevered After Sustaining Injuries in Motorcycle Accident

By Angela Cliburn
Mother of Former Shepherd Center Patient Matthew Pollard

My son, Matthew Pollard, was admitted to Shepherd Center on March 26, 2005 due to injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. He was only 16 years old at the time, and looking forward to anything less than a hardship was virtually impossible.

Matthew had a brain injury, broke his back in three places, had lung problems due to three broken ribs, and he had many other injuries I could not wrap my head around. But the doctors and staff at Shepherd Center put Matthew all back together (physically and mentally).

In 2009, Matthew developed a pressure sore as he was persisting to earn an associate’s degree from Macon State University in Macon, Georgia. Matthew had the sore for almost a year but did not want to give up the chance of getting a degree. Once he received the degree, doctors at Shepherd Center performed flap surgery to fix the wound. Again, Shepherd Center put my son back together!

Since that time, with every milestone Matthew has accomplished, I look back at how far he has come – from trying to remember the three words the doctor would give him to trying to sit up without falling over like a newborn child. As a mother, these tasks were heart wrenching and almost unbearable to watch. But the staff at Shepherd Center kept telling me not to give up and that in a few years, I would look back on that time and see how far Matthew had come.

They were right – although the road has not been a smooth one for Matthew. There have been many trials and tribulations, but he never gave up! He created a non-profit organization to help others with disabilities. The organization’s website is, and Matthew’s motto for it is “Quitting is never an option.”

Matthew went on to Macon State University to get his bachelor’s degree, and afterwards, he attended Mercer University School of Law in Macon. Between his classes, job and extracurricular activities, he barely has enough time to promote his non-profit’s website, but he refuses to give up on it. Matthew also volunteers with the Sharks sports team, and he mentors underprivileged, rural-area kids in his spare time. In addition, he volunteers as an intern four to five days a week and eight hours a day in a public defender’s office more than 30 miles away from home.

I owe so much gratitude to Shepherd Center, the doctors there who are so dedicated and gave so much attention to my son, and the staff for their patience and understanding. They made our traumatic experience less stressful by accommodating us in every reasonable way they could.

Today, May 13, 2017, marks one of the biggest milestones for my son, and I strongly believe that Matthew would not be where he is today without being lucky enough to be admitted to Shepherd Center on March 26, 2005.

Matthew will receive his law degree in a graduation ceremony today at Mercer University. There are no boundaries for him, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. He has a purpose, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be an asset wherever he may land.

I am so thankful to Shepherd Center, the staff, and, most of all, to the public and private contributors for making my son’s life become a new beginning.

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.