When 37-year-old Kelly Downing came to Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation – Greenbriar, paralyzed from the neck down as a result of chronic Lyme disease, she was unlike any patient the team had ever seen.

 Kelly’s therapists from left to right: Stacey Irek, OT, Steven Desaulniers, PT, and Laura Beard, SLP. Kelly’s therapists from left to right: Stacey Irek, OT, Steven Desaulniers, PT, and Laura Beard, SLP.

Her occupational therapist, Stacey Irek, has said: “With her diagnosis, there was no textbook we could follow.”

The only one that might come close, they thought, was another Kelly, who had a neurological condition that had also caused neck-down paralysis, and who had been treated at Kindred Rehabilitation Hospital Clear Lake in Webster, Texas.

“Our Kelly’s brother had seen the video on YouTube about Kelly Ford – the so-called ‘Running Mom’ who had lost the ability to walk, paralyzed from the neck down,” Stacey said. “He noted the similarities and they asked us about it.”

The ability to talk with colleagues thousands of miles away, run ideas by them and hear about their experience with their own patient helped Stacey, physical therapist Steve Desaulniers and Kelly’s entire rehabilitation team at Greenbriar gain confidence about their treatment plan, and provided a sounding board for the ideas they had in mind for their patient.

“We talked with an administrator there and some of the treating therapists,” said Steve. “We explained what we were seeing and we wanted to know what their approach was. It really helped us to get the ball rolling.”

Once the ball was rolling, there was no looking back for Kelly, whose positive outlook played a huge role in her recovery, according to her therapists.

“She was game for all of my tasks,” said her speech language pathologist, Laura Beard, who helped Kelly when her brain “short circuited,” and the cognitive multitasking required for combining physical movement and speaking proved difficult.

“Kelly’s outlook was a major component to her success,” Beard said. “Kelly was hard-working. She was willing to be upfront and blatantly honest about her deficits and symptoms. She was also able to laugh at herself. Her attitude played a big role.”

Being able to tap into the resources and best practices of other teams within the Kindred Healthcare family makes their work a little bit easier, allowing them to focus on patients, especially those like Kelly who are so unique, according to Steve and Stacey.

“To be able to reach out to a different part of the country is a great opportunity for us,” Stacey said. “We don’t just get support from within our own facility, with whatever supplies or materials we need for our patients, but we also have the resources of this extended Kindred family.”

Watch Kelly Downing and Kelly Ford share their stories: