Atlanta, GA,
15:20 PM

Saying “Yes!” to Adventure

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, Alesha Savannah thought her life was over. Instead, the self-proclaimed “people person” has thrived on new experiences.

Thirty-three-year-old Alesha Savannah is a Georgia native who now lives in a small town in northern Florida. She greets others with a smile and “grateful day.” She describes herself succinctly as a “people person” and says that in the past few years, she has become a “yes” woman — saying “yes” to adventures and opportunities whenever she can.

Five years ago, on New Year’s Eve, Alesha was on a road trip with friends when the car she was riding in flipped, and she was thrown out the back window. When she landed, she sustained a T-10 to T-11 spinal cord injury (SCI). And while her life changed that night, she says her view of life ultimately changed as well.

“I thought my life was going to be over,” Alesha says. “I wasn't going to be able to do anything. I thought it was going to be a period. God put a comma there instead, and I have lived more now than I did before.”

Alesha went to Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus, Georgia, before transferring to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation. She says the first night at Shepherd, her mom couldn’t stay with her, and she was terrified to be alone, but one of the nurses stayed by her side. “To this day, I still talk to Allie, the night nurse. She held my hand until I fell asleep.” 

Alesha participated in the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program and the outpatient SCI Day Program and says the staff felt like family.

“From the first day, everybody was there to support me. Everybody was realistic. They allowed me to be angry, to be sad, to be whatever I wanted to be.”

At first, Alesha was hesitant to try new things. “I said, ‘Absolutely not. Why would I want to do that? That's going to be too much on my arms. Or physically, I'm incapable.’ I guess I didn't want to get used to being in a wheelchair. But now I've realized there's so much more life to live while in a wheelchair — even if it’s different, there is a way to do it. I have done so many things.”

Alesha says it was while she participated in the Day Program that she really started gaining a sense of independence.

I was doing all the things. My therapist was really good at being firm but supportive.

That was one of my favorite things about Shepherd Center. They're always able to get me together, but in a supportive way, because sometimes I would overthink things and get anxious, especially if it was something new. I was always thinking of what could go wrong, versus now, I think about all the good things that could happen.”

Since graduating from the Day Program, Alesha has tried many activities through Shepherd’s Recreation Therapy Program. She’s participated in Adventure Skills Workshop, where she learned to waterski — now one of her favorite things to do. And she and her partner, K, recently took a trip to Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS) Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to participate in an outdoor adventure program with Shepherd’s Recreation Therapy Program and STARS.

“I’m always so grateful that my partner gets to attend with me because it's easier for her to experience new activities with people who will tell us how to make it work, and we can ask for help if we need it. That's important.”

In 2022, Alesha was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Georgia, and she spent the year traveling around the state advocating for people with disabilities.

That really started a fire for me to get involved in advocacy, because it's not about me.

It's about the generations coming behind me. I plan to go back to school for disability studies so I can learn more as well as apply my experiences. I’m excited to grow and see what I can do for the next generation.”

She’ll keep on trying new things — and growing.

The things that I thought were going to be impossible, I’m doing them. And I'm blessed to have an amazing partner who will charge into the unknown right there with me. So, life is full of blessings, and it's amazing.”

Written by Ruth Underwood



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.