Shooting for More than Normal
After sustaining a spinal cord injury as a teenager, Rachel Krause, former Shepherd Center patient, was recently appointed a Georgia Superior Court judge.
On July 9, 1991, her 17th birthday, Rachel Krause lost control of her car, hit a tree and flipped over. Paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a T-12, L-1 spinal cord fracture, she spent seven days at the Medical Center of Central Georgia, in Macon, where she lived, before transferring to Shepherd Center.
Nearly 28 years later, Krause was appointed Fulton County Superior Court Judge by former Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. She began her term Monday, January 14, 2019.
In remarks made during her swearing-in ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol, Krause recalled telling her mother after the car crash that “I want to be normal.”
Her mother’s response: “Don’t shoot for normal. Be more.”
“That’s what Shepherd Center taught me to do,” Krause says. “I always wanted to be a lawyer, I never changed my mind, and it’s all Shepherd Center. When you get to Shepherd Center because of a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury, you think the world has ended and everything you thought you were going to do is no longer going to happen.
“But what Shepherd did for me is say, ‘no, you can still do those things, you can still have the life you imagined. You just have to do it differently.’ Shepherd gives you the tools to figure out how to do that.”
After a month in Shepherd Center’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) because of severe burns, Krause spent the next two months in the hospital’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program.
One of the first things she remembers is being told to make her bed. She soon learned how to navigate safely around a kitchen – she still loves to cook at home. She recalls the staff’s humor, and trips outside Shepherd Center, rolling up “heartbreak hill” in front of the building and learning to solve real-world challenges outside the “Shepherd bubble.”
Krause returned to Macon for her senior year of high school and graduated with her class. She went on to Georgia Southern University, then earned a law degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.
Krause was introduced at her swearing-in ceremony by a law school friend who recalled that Krause was voted by classmates “most likely to argue with a judge.”
Krause moved to Atlanta 10 years ago to join the national litigation firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith. She specialized in health disability and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) defense law.
Krause says she’s now excited for the opportunity to “do something that directly impacts people’s lives.”
Krause, who uses a wheelchair and lives in a neighborhood near Shepherd Center with her husband, Thomas, and their three daughters, sometimes sees patients on outings when she’s at restaurants with her family.
“I see the same looks on their faces that I had, the look of trying to figure things out,” Krause says. “I’ll talk to them, tell them my life was where theirs is 20 years ago. Then I tell them these are my kids, and here we are doing our thing.”
She adds, “The fact that I got to go to college, got married, had kids, became a lawyer and am now a judge is in no small way attributed to Shepherd Center.”
Written by Drew Jubera
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 neuromuscular 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 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.