Santa Marie Wallace's Story

Santa Marie WallaceIn 1986, after an evening of celebrating her birthday at a nightclub with friends, Santa Marie Wallace was hit by a drunk driver while walking across the street. This devastating, life-altering accident left her a quadriplegic.

The C3-C5 incomplete spinal cord injury and limitations of movement caused her body to be stiff as a board. She experienced constant pain, especially in her back, requiring narcotics, tranquilizers, and anti-inflammatory medications for relief. At times, bed and wheelchair transfers involved several people manipulating her body, helping her stand, forcing her hands open and placing them on the walker in order to move her body 6 to 12 inches by shuffling her feet.

That changed when Santa began outpatient therapy at Kennedy Krieger's International Center for Spinal Cord Injury. At the Center, Santa's body is being re-educated through activity-based restorative therapy. The innovative, aggressive nature of treatment has augmented her flexibility and movement. Santa continues to make strides in strength and recovery of function. She is able to stand from her wheelchair and walk limited distances using a rolling walker, something doctors told her she would never do. Her hands are still occasionally fisted, but she no longer uses assistive devices and can manually stretch them. Her sensitivity to touch and hot and cold temperatures has increased.

"I truly feel that had the Center existed in 1986, my progress would be far more advanced and would have taken less time. The program is not a cure, but a treatment and hope for improvement and independence. My continued journey is a miracle in and of itself. More importantly than my own improvement is the knowledge that my recovery may help someone else."

Despite her disability, Santa finished her BA in May 2011 and is currently pursuing her MA in Disability Policy while working part-time. She enjoys sailing and has participated in snow skiing and an equine therapy program. Santa is the recipient of the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities' 2011 Education Advocate Award. She also has addressed high school students on poor and destructive decisions.