Atlanta, GA,
10:55 AM

Rolling with the Tide- Andrew Tart’s Story

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, Andrew Tart reintegrated back into high school with the help of friends from Shepherd Center. Now, he’s looking forward to attending the University of Alabama.

In May 2019, Alabama native Andrew “Pop-Tart” Tart was riding his motorcycle in Mobile when a vehicle pulled out in front of him, resulting in a head-on collision. Andrew sustained a T-10 level spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the waist down.

After his lawyer recommended Shepherd Center, Andrew and his family made the trip from Mobile to Atlanta, hopeful for progress. After his stay at USA Health University Hospital, Andrew transferred to Shepherd Center’s Adolescent Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program, which focuses on returning teenagers to the highest level of function and independence possible after injury while also allowing them to connect and interact with similar-aged peers with similar injuries. Even during tough times and rigorous therapy sessions, Andrew’s bright personality shone through.

That positivity and humor helped him to make gains in his rehabilitation while participating in all Shepherd has to offer, including modeling in Project Rollway, an annual fashion show featuring current and former teenage patients. Event proceeds benefit Shepherd Center’s adolescent rehabilitation programs. While on the runway, Pop-Tart tossed an actual pack of Pop-Tarts to Shepherd Center’s co-founder, Alana Shepherd, bringing a smile to her face and eliciting ripples of laughter from the crowd. 

Next, Andrew attended Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Day Program, which provides intensive outpatient therapy across many disciplines. Meanwhile, his parents stayed in Shepherd Center’s donor-funded family housing to support their son and participate in caregiver training classes. Donor-funded family housing allows families like the Tarts to stay together during rehabilitation and gain skills needed to feel well-prepared once they return home. 

When Andrew returned to Mary G. Montgomery High School in September 2019, his recreation therapist at the time, Shanna Thorpe, CTRS, and Shepherd facility dog, Derek, accompanied him. They helped him get settled in at school as a part of Shepherd Center’s No Obstacles program, a donor-funded program that often includes in-school awareness and sensitivity training for school staff and students and instruction in medical or cognitive issues that may arise during the school day.

“A lot of my close friends had already seen me in my wheelchair, but for some people, this was their first time,” Andrew says. “It was nice to have Shanna and Derek there with me.”

Andrew has not missed a beat since returning home. He is part of his high school fishing team and enjoys hunting and hanging out with friends on the weekends.

“I don’t really let anything slow me down,” Andrew explains. “I take it day by day. It’s just who I am.”

Now a high school senior, Andrew is looking forward to attending the University of Alabama and becoming a personal injury lawyer to help others in situations similar to his own. Like every soon-to-be first-year college student, he’s excited for a new start and the vibrant, welcoming community in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“From a young age, I would always tell my mom I wanted to go the University of Alabama, but I don’t want to go just because I’m an Alabama fan,” Andrew says. “I want to go because they always have something going on, and they have one of the best law schools in the country.”

As he sets off on his new adventure, Andrew’s Shepherd Center family looks forward to cheering him on and watching him succeed.

Written by Lindsey Rieben 

Pursuing Possible with Shepherd Center

To support patient stories like this one, please consider contributing to Shepherd Center's Pursuing Possible campaign

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.