April 24, 2014, began as a normal day for Marcella Boyd Robinson. She got dressed and headed to the gym. At the gym she had no problem doing her usual 4-miles on the elliptical. After her workout, she headed to meet her son for breakfast and felt a nagging sensation in her lower back, which she attributed to muscle strain.
“My son Ryan’s first child was due any day,” says Marcella. “I will always remember breakfast with him, the excitement in his voice as we talked about the baby and his new role. I was looking forward to being a grandma. I never imagined that in 12 hours my life would drastically change and my dreams of running around after my grandson would be just that - only a dream.”
That evening, Marcella felt tingling and numbness in her toes. The sensation rapidly moved up her legs. Within minutes the numbness had moved up past her knees. Marcella knew something was wrong and told her husband to call 9-1-1. Within
30 minutes she was paralyzed from the waist down.
“Having a medical background I wondered could this be Guillain-Barre? I asked myself as the paralysis continued its climb up my body. Am I having a stroke?” says Marcella. “I knew if the paralysis kept advancing, within minutes I wouldn’t be able to breathe.”
In the emergency room she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, an auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation of the spinal cord. Marcella underwent various treatments to help reduce the inflammation such as steroids and plasma exchange therapy before she was admitted to the acute inpatient unit at the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute at Long Beach Medical Center on May 19, 2014.
Over the next month, Marcella worked on basic life skills such as being able to sit in a chair unsupported or having the ability to get out of bed on her own. Under the guidance of the skilled multi-disciplinary care team consisting of occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, RN’s and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, Marcella began getting better. Within the first week, Marcella was standing with assistance and soon after she was walking short distances using a walker.
After four weeks, she was discharged from the inpatient rehabilitation unit and transitioned to the Transitional Rehabilitation Program at Long Beach Medical Center - the only program of its kind in the area. The Transitional Rehabilitation Program develops individualized treatment plans to help individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries regain the highest level of independence, self-esteem and adjustment to disability. There Marcella worked with the advanced team of experts who helped her push her boundaries and get back to her life goals she set on day one.
“I knew after the first day this was where I would learn to walk again and get my life back,” says Marcella. “After experiencing such a life changing illness I was fearful of being in public. The things I loved to do like going out to dinner and the movies,
now evoked fear and anxiety. Being in the Transitional Rehabilitation Program and going through therapy with other people allowed me to reintegrate back into a more normal lifestyle. Right away I felt at home.”
Marcella was determined to rewrite her own chapter. With these new found skills and new outlook on life she steadily accomplished various milestones. Not only has she regained her confidence in living independently again, as part of the Driving Rehabilitation Program, Marcella successfully regained her ability to drive again using specialized adaptive hand controls which she learned under the expertise of a driving rehabilitation specialist. “Words cannot describe the joy I felt the first time I was able to drive my car,” says Marcella. “Having the independence boosted my confidence and increased my motivation to work even harder in my therapy.”
The common thread among all Transitional Rehabilitation Program patients is that each has experienced a painful and traumatic event which left them with barriers. The group therapy aspect of the program allows them to support each other.
“From the therapists to the patients, everyone is with you and for you,” says Marcella. “I’m not alone in facing the mountain of challenge before me. My physical therapist, David, physical therapist assistant, Gabby, and occupational therapists, Alana, Ernest and Dolly gave me their kind, compassionate and encouraging instruction and guidance in teaching me to live, walk and laugh again. I will be forever grateful!”