Still Dancing and Dreaming
In her desire to help others, Mo Maxwell has always wanted to be a nurse. Her experience at Shepherd Center may help that dream come true.
Though Mo Maxwell, 19, has wanted to be a nurse since the fifth grade, her dream seemed out of reach in late 2021 when she started experiencing numbness in her arm. A few months later, it progressed to her back, and she developed a limp.
In June 2022, as her condition continued undiagnosed, Mo collapsed on her bathroom floor, became disoriented, and experienced paralysis. She was taken to Atrium Health Navicent in Macon, where she was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a neurological disease that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.
The team there placed Mo in a medically induced coma for nine days, and she spent the next two weeks in intensive care. As her condition improved with medication and a plasma exchange process called plasmapheresis, Mo transferred to Atrium’s cardiac unit, where she stayed until she transferred to Shepherd Center.
On July 11, 2022, Mo arrived at Shepherd Center via ambulance. She could not walk, had trouble speaking and swallowing, and had issues with her memory and word recall.
“I couldn’t hold my head up,” she remembers. “It felt like a bowling ball.”
She was in Shepherd’s Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit (CRU) and was also part of the Adolescent Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program while she was an inpatient. She spent a month and a half in therapy, gaining muscle strength and re-learning how to walk, talk, and feed herself. By the end of August, she had made great progress. Her paralysis was nearly gone, she was walking on her own, and her speech had improved. She could even dance. In fact, as she continued her rehabilitation at Shepherd Pathways, Shepherd Center’s comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program for people recovering from brain injury, she choreographed a dance and got her therapy team to join in.
In January 2023, Mo achieved a major milestone when she started college at Georgia State University. Today, she is in her second semester of college, lives independently, and can drive. She credits Shepherd Center for where she is now.
“It’s such an amazing place,” she says. “The people there are so caring, and they became like a family. I am so grateful to all the therapists for how far I’ve come with their help.”
Written by Sara Baxter
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.