Finding Sports After Transverse Myelitis

By Dalia Rebolledo, age 20

Injury level: T10

Diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis on Sep. 12, 2013

Before TM, I was a normal teenager who was passionate about my education. I was involved in extracurricular activities and volunteered as much as I could. Growing up as the first child in my family to graduate from high school was challenging. I faced many obstacles, including learning a second language and an entirely new culture. But without a doubt, the biggest challenge was becoming paralyzed literally overnight.

During the second week of my junior year of high school, I began to get sick. On the night of September 10th, 2013, I woke up and noticed that I couldn’t move my legs. My mom tried to help me stand up, but I collapsed to the floor immediately. I was rushed to the ER and after two days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a neurological disease with no cure. The inflammation damaged my spinal cord and I lost mobility from my chest down. After the available treatment, I regained upper body strength, but was wheelchair-bound with little hope to ever regain full mobility. I was in an inpatient rehab clinic for four weeks, where I was taught how to move around in my wheelchair.

The first year was the hardest, as I juggled between therapy, doctor’s appointments, and school. In 2015, I was able to graduate high school with honors and made plans to attend a four-year college to study Business Management. My plans didn’t work out, and I was unable to further my education at that time.

In 2016, I began to get sick again, which seemed to be another TM attack. This time I lost strength in my arms. I was in the hospital for a week, and although there was no damage in my spinal cord, my immune system was overactive which could cause more damage at any time.

In December of 2016, I made plans to start going to REACT, a neurological rehab program. I was not going to let TM take control of my life and was determined to work as much as I could to regain my strength back. Going to REACT once or sometimes twice a week helped me gain my upper body strength back and motivated me to work harder than ever. Now I have full control of my arms, and my balance has increased tremendously. I enjoy doing the workouts and learning how to do new exercises.

I was introduced to the Legacy Project and was lucky enough to participate in their summer group. The Legacy Program is a 12 week/3 times a week high intensity, group training program that combines strength training and sport, at no cost to the participants. Participants are given a unique opportunity to overcome their physical limitations and inspire others to achieve what many view as impossible. The Legacy Project is one of the many programs REACT offers. At the Legacy Project, we don’t only work with our bodies, but also with our minds. They motivate and push us to reach our maximum potential. Today, I can say that I am stronger than ever, not only physically but also emotionally. REACT empowered me and encouraged me to try sports and stay connected with a group of amazing individuals. I currently do wheelchair basketball, and I am thinking of doing hand cycling. I also enjoy playing volleyball and soccer/wheelchair rugby.

REACT has encouraged me to be independent and has given me the strength to go out and do volunteer work again and pursue my education goals. I have accomplished a lot of my goals, but my long-term goal will always be to regain full mobility. In the meantime, I will continue to work with what I have and push myself even further.

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