Stronger Every Day
With determination and a sense of humor, Jordynn Woods makes progress after sustaining a spinal cord injury.
Jordynn Woods, 17, loves stuffed animals, hoodies, and K-pop, and she confesses to spending too much time on TikTok. Her wry sense of humor is evident as soon as she launches into a conversation, and it has stayed with her through some tough times.
In March 2021, Jordynn and a friend were walking home from dance class in College Park, Georgia, when a car struck them. Jordynn’s friend was bruised, but Jordynn’s injuries were more serious.
“I just remember waking up on the ground. I was cold, and I heard my friend yelling my name. I was all confused until I found out I was hit by a car,” Jordynn recalls.
Jordynn sustained a spinal cord injury and spent 10 days at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before transferring to the Adolescent Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Shepherd Center.
Her mom, Damika, remembers it was a difficult time for them both. “She couldn't move. She could shrug her shoulders, and she could say her name. They put a tube in her throat, so then she couldn't talk anymore, and I could not read lips for anything. She cried because she couldn't explain things to me.”
Shortly after Jordynn arrived at Shepherd, another teen stopped by to talk, giving Damika some much-needed hope.
“I just saw Jordynn blossom – she became the old Jordynn, laughing, having a good time hanging out. Once she was out of her shell, I came out of my shell because now I'm like, she's going to be okay,” Damika remembers.
After that moment, there was no stopping Jordynn and what she could achieve. On her first day in therapy at Shepherd, Jordynn was able to move her right arm.
“So, we started training my right arm to get much stronger. While my right arm did learn really fast, my left arm took its sweet, precious time,” Jordynn quips.
Jordynn also worked hard to keep up with her schoolwork, with help from Kelsey Shearman, MA, academic coordinator at Shepherd Center. To further help with her studies, she learned to use GlassOuse motion sensor glasses that allow users to control a mouse with their head. Since Jordynn has limited control of her right hand, the glasses make it easier for her to complete assignments.
“That's what I use for school now,” she says. “I'm pretty good at it. People are pretty impressed when they see me use it.”
She joined field trips to places like Zoo Atlanta, The Yard Milkshake Bar, and Atlantic Station.
“I was pretty excited to be back outside in the world, even though it kind of scared me –it was just mixed emotions, but I knew I was safe,” Jordynn recalls.
And, Jordynn participated in Project Rollway, an annual fashion show featuring current and former patients from Shepherd’s adolescent rehabilitation programs. Not only did she model, but she also sang.
“Once they found out that I could sing, there wasn't really a decision. It was a great experience for me, and it took me out of my comfort zone,” she says.
Jordynn was discharged from Shepherd in June 2021 and still participates in outpatient therapy.
She’s back in school and will graduate in May 2023. After high school, Jordynn is considering taking pre-med courses or writing. But first, she plans to take a year off, look for a job, and focus on therapy.
“I want more control over my arms, so I won’t have to rely on people as often. If I have to ask people, that's okay, but I want more control,” she says.
As an outpatient, Jordynn continues to push herself. She tried tennis through Shepherd’s Recreation Therapy Program and says she enjoys hitting the ball. When the opportunity to try rock climbing arose, Jordynn wasn’t so sure.
“I was scared to try climbing at first. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I had to pull my body weight, but they helped. It was a great experience, and I'm glad I got the confidence to do it.”
With her renewed sense of hope, Jordynn is discovering that anything is possible.
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Written by Ruth Underwood
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.