By Kylie Himmelberger
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) took away my independence. The disorder left me partially paralyzed and robbed me of my ability to walk, talk, and even eat. But thanks to Kennedy Krieger’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, I got my independence—and my lifelong dreams—back.
In January 2014, I became an inpatient at Kennedy Krieger. From the start, a team of supportive doctors, nurses, and therapists helped me come up with treatment goals. I was scared at first. I broke down at my first full session because I didn’t want to accept my loss of independence and the turn my life had taken. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do the things I love, like shop and play sports. I had always dreamed of being an officer in the Air Force, but now I didn’t know if I would have the strength or ability to meet all of the physical requirements. I didn’t even know if I was going to regain basic life skills.
But I quickly realized the only way to get better, and be independent again, was to work hard. So that’s what I did. Therapists coached me through three daily rehabilitation sessions, incorporating video games, pool sessions, and sports into the process. I was having so much fun that at times, I forgot I was actually doing work!
My therapy team even molded my rehabilitation sessions around the U.S. Air Force fitness requirements, knowing how important this goal was to me. After more than a month of inpatient therapy and then outpatient therapy, I made tremendous progress.
I am now fully recovered, with no lingering effects from my bout with GBS. In some ways, I’m actually better off. I have more passion and drive in my life since I experienced losing everything. I am humbled and feel extremely blessed.
Today, I am a senior accounting major at Virginia Tech and am very active within the Corps of Cadets and Air Force ROTC, as well as the women’s club basketball team. In the fall, I ran in the Baltimore Running Festival with Team Kennedy Krieger. I recently graduated from Air Force Field Training, and am on track to commission as an officer into the Air Force as a second lieutenant. If it wasn’t for everyone, from the nurses and doctors to the therapists and even other patients, pushing me and supporting me every step of the way, I would not be where I am today. The people at Kennedy Krieger genuinely cared for me and always considered my feelings and needs. I can’t thank Kennedy Krieger enough for giving me my life back.