Atlanta, GA,
16:07 PM

Ready for Adventure: Kendall Ball's Story

When Kendall Ball discovered Shepherd Center had an arts and crafts space, she couldn’t wait to return to crafting.

As summer wanes, Kendall Ball will do some harvesting in her garden in Buena Vista, Georgia. She will pick her beans, corn, and maybe the squash — if it didn’t get too much rain — with particular pride. Their journey began much as Kendall’s rebirth did this year, feeling warm sunlight coming in through a window at Shepherd Center.

 “I started each of those as little seeds in cups on my windowsill there,” Kendall says. “It was through gardening as recreational therapy. When I came home, I brought those seeds in a planter with me and transferred them to my garden. Watching them grow throughout the season reminds me of how far I’ve come.”

On February 23, Kendall, 30, had a hemorrhagic stroke at the elementary school where she is a librarian. She spent 10 days in the ICU at Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital, where she had a craniotomy to relieve pressure and pain from brain swelling.

Kendall arrived at Shepherd Center shaken by the sudden events, desperately missing her two young daughters, and devastated by the loss of function in her left hand and arm.

Her turning point came when she learned Shepherd Center had an arts and crafts space.

A self-described “Jill of all trades,” Kendall says crafting is a core part of her lifelong identity, from sewing and knitting to jewelry and art. It’s why she prioritized anything that would help her regain mobility in her hand.

Kendall’s therapists emphasized recreational therapy to improve her motor skills and uplift her spirits. She made mosaic tiles. She painted. She made bracelets she would give her daughters, Cara, 5, and Gwen, 2, when they visited each weekend. And, yes, she gardened.

“Getting down to that arts and crafts room and seeing what I was capable of was really good for me,” Kendall says. “All the recreational therapy was mentally what I needed to make it through a really hard time.”

She also grew her love for beading while at Shepherd Center. The craft proved painstaking at first, stringing one tiny bead at a time. Eventually, as her hand function returned, her beadwork blossomed. She’s carried her new passion home, too. This summer, she began selling handmade beaded earrings — initially to friends and family, but now they’re available in a local hair salon.

Better yet, beading is another activity she and her kids do together, along with watercolor painting and sewing.

“I’m so thankful to be with my kids again,” Kendall says. “Being away from them was the most painful thing of all.”

She’s also reunited with her “other” kids. Kendall returned to some of her library duties at the end of the last school year. This August, she’ll take on a full load of classes as the school librarian, doing the things she’s passionate about with her students — teaching about different genres, talking about how to evaluate reliable sources, and reading the graphic novels many kids love these days.

It’s something Shepherd helped prepare her for, too. Her recreational therapists organized an outing to a local bookstore to practice scenarios she’d eventually encounter back at school.

“That outing made me aware of how things would be different to some degree when I went back to work,” Kendall says. “It helped me anticipate some of the challenges I might face.

“Of course, it also was nice just being around books again. I’d missed that. I remember I bought quite a few books for me and my kids! That was a really nice outing for this librarian’s soul.”

Written by Phillip Jordan

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.