Lindsay Jensen’s daughter was just four months old when Lindsay was involved in a January 2015 car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury requiring weeks of hospitalization and months of rehabilitation. In September, Kenleigh will turn 2, and Lindsay will be home to celebrate with her.
Little Kenleigh is Lindsay’s biggest cheerleader. During one of Lindsay’s last outpatient therapy sessions at Mary Free Bed, she waited at the top of a stairwell, clapping and yelling “Yay, Momma!” as Lindsay made her way up.
It’s been a long time since Lindsay, 29, was able to walk independently, let alone climb stairs. She came to Mary Free Bed a month after surgery to repair damage to her C6-C7 vertebrae at Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw. She arrived completely dependent, but after 97 days of intensive inpatient therapy, she graduated independent, operating a power wheelchair.
“She also was beginning to stand and walk in therapy with the use of the Lokomat and ZeroG,” said Tracy Oostema, a physical therapist in the Spinal Cord Injury program. The Lokomat is robot-assisted walking therapy, while the ZeroG is a ceiling-mounted ambulation system.
After her inpatient graduation, Lindsay remained in Mary Free Bed’s continuum of care, traveling with family and friends – and Kenleigh – from her Cass City home for three days of outpatient therapy each week, staying at the Inn at Mary Free Bed. She continued working with the same team of specialists for the next 18 months.
Her outpatient therapy focused on gait training, progressing from Lokomat to ZeroG to Tollos, another ceiling-mounted ambulation system that offers static support. Next was walking with a walker, then forearm crutches. Along the way, she worked on transfers, muscle strengthening, pool therapy, balance training and other developmental activities.
“My therapists were great – they truly want the best for you,” Lindsay said. “They all love and welcomed my daughter and included her in a lot of therapy. She’s therapy for everyone here, too.”
Tracy said it was helpful to have Kenleigh around for therapy sessions.
“She did a lot of her own gait training, alongside her mom, and was learning to walk,” Tracy said. “She was Lindsay’s cheerleader, too, always clapping and encouraging. Kenleigh often mimicked what Lindsay was doing in therapy, whether it was pullups on the parallel bars or having fun playing with the balls and balloons. She would flip her mom’s footplates up before walking and flip them down afterward.”
Now, a year and a half later, Lindsay has gained the strength, stamina and confidence needed to graduate from outpatient therapy to a home exercise program.
“I want to continue getting stronger so I can ditch this power chair and walk all the time,” Lindsay said. “I want to get better for my daughter.”
Tracy said she’s “extremely proud” of Lindsay.
“I’m grateful for the recovery she experienced and worked hard to gain,” Tracy said. “As a therapist, I wish all of my spinal cord-injured patients could make the type of recovery she has made. Much of recovery after a spinal cord injury is beyond one’s control, but Lindsay didn’t take her recovery for granted and worked hard to make the most of it. It was a privilege to be a part of her recovery and to witness the incredible progression she made.”
Learn more about Lindsay’s journey in this video: