Inspiring Stories

Five years ago, Charnira was on life support and expected to remain in a vegetative state. Now 15, she is full of vitality, thanks to a brain injury program that helps non-responsive patients emerge into consciousness.
Charnira Berry

No one could have known that day how 10-year-old Charnira Berry’s life would be dramatically altered—or just how close she would come to struggling for survival. Her family was getting ready to go out, and while her father and siblings bustled around her, Charnira remained on the couch, sleeping. When her family was unable to rouse her, they realized something was seriously wrong. Charnira had suffered a heart attack. 

After a brain tumor blindsided Kokayi and left him without the ability to walk, talk, or even swallow, he fought to get his life back.
Kokayi Thomas with his mother

Fifteen-year-old Kokayi Thomas had always been healthy and athletic, until last November when he started complaining of weakness in his right arm and leg. After a visit to the pediatrician, a battery of tests, and an MRI, Kokayi and his parents were shocked to hear the diagnosis: Kokayi had a brain tumor. Although considered low-grade, the tumor—pilocytic astrocytoma—was located on his brain stem. “In that one moment, with those few words, our world turned upside down,” recalls Kokayi’s mother, Debra Jeter-Thomas.

Despite severe autism and catatonia, Jamie Schneider’s triumphs have been far greater than his disability.
Jamie Schneider

Jamie Schneider has profound autism and cannot speak. The 23-year-old from New York cannot cross the street alone and requires constant supervision. But when he’s running, he is free. Jamie can’t communicate how it feels to hear friends and family cheer him on during a race or to cross the finish line of a marathon.  But you need only see his smile and the pride shining in his face to imagine what he might be thinking.

A military family's quest for their daughter's care
Megan Miceli

With her big bright eyes, auburn curls, and contagious giggle, 6-year-old Megan Miceli is truly one in a million. You could even say she’s one in a billion— Megan has a genetic disorder so rare that only a handful of cases have been reported in the world. Since she was a baby, she has been under the care of neurologists at Kennedy Krieger who, after extensive genomic testing, diagnosed her with gene microdeletion 15q13.3.

Colorado Dreaming
Marshall Garber

A few years ago, I developed a mass on my spinal cord that left me paralyzed. My family sought out the best place to help me, which was Kennedy Krieger. Going into treatment, I didn’t have any intention of forming a family there, but in a way, I did. Multiple people at Kennedy Krieger had an impact on me, but Dr. Becker has been one of the most influential people in my recovery.

The Neurobehavioral Unit at Kennedy Krieger helps turn around a young boy with self-injurious and aggressive behavior.
Luke McNair happy

Chrissy McNair describes her son Luke, 13, as “one of the happiest kids I’ve ever met.” He usually wakes up in a good mood and likes cracking jokes with his two brothers. He loves Top-40 music and animals, and has been riding horses since he was 3 years old. “The best word for him is passionate,” says his mother. “He passionately loves the things he loves and he passionately hates the things he hates.” But when Luke would get upset, that passion began to manifest in disturbing and even dangerous ways.

After multiple doctors could not help relieve her suffering from pain so severe she could no longer walk, Katie Bickford sought help at Kennedy Krieger’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program and today, she has her life back.
Katie Bickford

Katie Bickford remembers the pain starting in the 7th grade—it began in her spine and radiated out all over her body. The pain got so bad she couldn’t walk. To make matters worse, she fractured her heel, and then her arm, so it hurt to use crutches.

She used a wheelchair to get around, but in her house where the wheelchair wouldn’t fit, she resorted to crawling, developing thick calluses on her hands and knees. She could no longer function and stopped going to school.

After cancer and chemotherapy left her so fragile doctors said she might never walk again, Perry found her strength with the help of Kennedy Krieger’s Specialized Transition Program.
Perry Zimmerman

At the tender age of 13, Perry Zimmerman has already battled a lifetime’s worth of illnesses. Born with retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer, Perry developed a related brain tumor at age two that doctors did not expect her to survive. For the Zimmerman family, watching their two-year-old daughter go through chemotherapy was heartwrenching, but when it was over, Perry emerged cancer-free.

An unexpected collaboration between neurology and bioengineering led to an innovative, low-cost medical device that may help prevent cerebral palsy in developing countries.

As far back as 1000 BC, ancient civilizations used a primitive, but ingenious, cooling system using nothing more than clay pots, water, and the natural cooling power of evaporation to keep food cool. Could this same low-tech cooling system be used to prevent brain damage and cerebral palsy in developing countries?

For Pfeiffer’s family, every little milestone is a miracle, thanks to the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury.
Pfeiffer Whiteley

At 4 years old, Victoria “Pfeiffer” Whiteley is funny, precocious, very charming, and wise beyond her years. She loves dresses with flowers, Barbies, and all things girly. She is also partially paralyzed, a result of transverse myelitis.

When Pfeiffer Whiteley was 8 months old, she developed a high fever and seemed to “flop over.” Both the pediatrician and the doctor at the hospital said the same thing—it was just a virus that would resolve on its own.

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