Young Mom Credits Shepherd Center for her Recovery from Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
Alexa Bennett, 19, of Woodstock, Ga., sustained a C-2 spinal cord injury, fractured pelvis and a traumatic brain injury in an early-morning car accident on Oct. 5, 2012. What paramedics didn’t realize when they first reached the scene was that Alexa was also 12 weeks pregnant. Her path to rehabilitation would become more time-sensitive than most.
“It was incredibly difficult going through everything with my recovery while being pregnant,” Alexa says. “I didn’t have much time to prepare for birth and learn to be a mom with all my rehabilitation. I was just hoping and praying the baby would be OK.”
After her condition stabilized, Alexa was admitted to Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Program on Oct. 18. For three weeks, she relearned how to talk, walk, eat and work her way back toward independence.
At Shepherd Center, Gerald Bilsky, M.D., oversaw Alexa’s rehabilitation. Today, she sees more of Dr. Bilsky’s wife, Judith Tolkan, M.D., a pediatrician. Against great odds, on April 18, 2013, Alexa gave birth to a healthy baby named Colton.
“I love being a mom, and I can’t imagine my life without him,” she says. “Plus, everyone at Shepherd Center jokes that taking care of a baby is occupational, physical, speech and recreational therapies all wrapped up in one little package!”
In the summer of 2013, Alexa graduated from Shepherd Pathways, the hospital's post-acute rehabilitation program in nearby Decatur, Ga. Then, in fall 2013, she began her first semester back at the University of North Georgia, studying childhood and special education. She made the Dean’s List for fall 2013. Alexa and her mom, Charlotta Bennett, also return regularly to Shepherd Center to visit with current patients and their families.
“Without Shepherd Center, I wouldn’t be walking or talking or going back to school or being a mom. None of it,” she says. “I know that.”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Sara Anderson Photography
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.