Teen tackles rehabilitation from serious illness with self-motivation and her Mary Free Bed team

Samantha Beckhorn thought her life was “shattered and broken” after she woke up at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, unable to move.

Diagnosed with autoimmune-related encephalitis and transverse myelitis, Sam came to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation following a month in the Intensive Care Unit at Sparrow. That’s when she changed her mindset.

“I was like ‘OK, what is this place?’,” Sam said. “My dad just described it as basically ‘They’re going to help you get better’.”

When she arrived on April 16, the Lowell teenager was paralyzed from the waist down and was experiencing cognitive issues related to poor recall and organization, said pediatric occupational therapist Penny Adams.

“She has been incredibly self-motivated,” Penny said. “She asked for additional therapy as well as things she could do in the evenings, and actively participated in setting her own goals.”

During the 11 weeks she was an inpatient in the Pediatric Program, Sam made significant strides cognitively and physically. When she graduated on June 29, Sam could walk using forearm crutches or a walker, could provide her own self-care and was working at an appropriate school-age level, Penny said.

“More importantly, Sam had handled her health situation with as much grace as a 16-year-old could possibly muster and more,” she said.

In this video, Sam shares her rehabilitation story and offers advice for patients faced with a serious illness or injury.

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