SKANDIA — One woman has defied the odds after a fall on her family’s farm in Skandia left her paralyzed. Hoping to get back to her passion for farming, she has pushed the limits of her recovery, surpassing all expectations.
“I had two spinal doctors and one of them gave me a 50 percent chance to walk and one of them said you’ll probably never walk again,” Emily DeVooght said.
At just 24 years old, Emily DeVooght had received a prognosis that dramatically altered her life. In December of 2015, Emily had climbed a ladder to reach for a bail of hay when the ladder slipped from beneath her.
An unforgiving concrete floor broke her 12–foot fall, leaving her immobilized and unable to feel her legs. First responders initially thought it was just a pinched nerve, but the severity of her injury turned out to be far worse.
“When she came into the emergency room, she could just barely wiggle her toes and really had not much else in regards to movement function in her lower legs,” said Emily’s Neurosurgeon, Craig Coccia said.
Doctors at UP Health System – Marquette determined her pain was actually linked to a burst fracture in her T–11 and T–12 vertebrae. This spinal injury — which involves a vertebral body being crushed in all directions — is extremely common after a long fall.
“I was really scared, but at that point, you didn’t have a lot of time to think,” DeVooght said. “There were so many doctors around and you just had to trust them and go with what they said.”
Emily spent her stay at the hospital telling doctors that not only would she walk, she would run.
“She was very clear to me that she was going to walk again,” Coccia said. “In fact, she made a number of little side–line bets with me in regards to her progress. And she has met all those goals and in fact exceeded them.”
In January, Emily started physical therapy at UP Health System Rehab Services in Gwinn. She rolled into her first session in pretty rough shape.
“I was a bit overwhelmed because first of all, we had so much to deal with,” said Emily’s Physical Therapist, Kim Spranger. “We had a fractured wrist, severe leg pain, we had that whole back trauma thing plus she couldn’t walk so there was a lot for us to deal with.”
Emily was determined to get back on the farm. That determination helped propel her fast recovery, but she also got some help from a nifty device still in its developmental stages. The Speed Maker is similar to a commonly–used gait belt, but comes with therapeutic tubing attachments that give the wearer more control over their body.
The apparatus, paired Emily’s positive attitude, set her up for success.
“If we told her to do 10, she would do 20,” Spranger said. “Running wasn’t even in my treatment care plan for Emily. But one day she walked into the clinic and says ‘I think I’m ready to run.’ I never thought she’d be running.”
Emily’s progress has exceeded everyone’s expectations, which just goes to show that attitude is half the battle during recovery.
“Emily is a unique person,” said Coccia. “She’s a young lady who is extremely driven and has worked very hard to maximize her recovery.”
“Emily will not be defined by this trauma,” said Spranger. “She will do whatever it is she wants to do.”
“A doctor can only tell you so much, but your body can do wonders,” said Emily. “I never took the negative, I always said ‘I’m going to run.’
Emily’s passion for farming has been a huge driving force in her road to recovery. While she still has a ways to go before she’s out herding cows again, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she won’t stop until she gets there.
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