Posted on May 21, 2021

Spinal cord injury doesn’t stop Michigan student

Hailey Naugle is a vibrant young woman who dreams of a career caring for others. An unfortunate accident gave the 19-year-old University of Michigan student a new perspective about what that means.

“This experience will help her tremendously,” said Dr. Sam Ho, a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. “Because when you go through the process, you know what your patient will go through. You become more humble when you learn what your limitations are. She’s a bright girl … I think she’ll become a good doctor.”

From the emotional and physical impact of an injury to fear of the unknown and the effect on loved ones, Hailey has a deeper understanding of what her future patients will experience.

It began in mid-January, when she traveled with friends to Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs for a ski weekend. On the last run of the evening, she lost control on icy conditions and crashed into a tree. The impact caused severe damage to her spinal cord, affecting movement and sensation.

She was cared for at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak before choosing Mary Free Bed to begin her rehabilitation journey. When she arrived on Jan. 22, Hailey’s ability to move her arm and leg was limited.

“I couldn’t predict her outcome,” Dr. Ho said.

But Hailey slowly and steadily regained function and strength, making strides in her recovery before graduating Feb. 24. Her team created fun and engaging therapy sessions, even using a dance posted on popular social network TikTok to encourage coordination and movement.

“It was a great activity to look at her balance,” said physical therapist Kristy Simpson. “She was doing all the things she needed to work on to be able to be a college student and be distracted and multi-task. It was great therapy for her. She was willing to try anything.”

Watch this video to learn more about Hailey’s recovery, including how her family’s support was instrumental and how she inspired her team, too.