A Story of Strength
On May 30, 2015, Meredith Koch awoke from a haze of anesthesia to a new reality. She had undergone eight hours of extensive surgery during which several titanium rods, screws and a steel cage were implanted in her body to realign her spine. It was her 25th birthday.
24 hours earlier, Meredith was an active, independent woman who ran half-marathons, danced in a ballet company and volunteered as an EMT on a rescue squad in Vermont. She was helping friends move into a new apartment when a piano accidentally fell directly on top of her, paralyzing her from the waist down. Finding herself in an unfamiliar role — needing to be rescued — she managed to maintain her composure and figure out what she needed to do to get safely to the hospital.
After spending a week in the surgical intensive care and inpatient units of the acute care hospital, Meredith was stable enough to be admitted to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to begin her journey of recovery.
When Meredith first came to Spaulding, she was almost completely dependent on others. She couldn't roll over in bed, sit up, get dressed, stand or shower unassisted. She had minimal feeling in her legs. Meredith worked with many different specialists on her rehabilitation team, including an occupational therapist who helped her get back to essential activities such as dressing herself. She also worked with a physical therapist on motor training and muscle strengthening.
"The therapists push you hard," said Meredith. "They push you beyond your comfort zone to really find your strength despite your injuries."
Meredith made tremendous strides during her time at Spaulding. She was discharged home after one month. Despite needing a wheelchair most of the time, she was already able to walk short distances using a walker and leg braces. "The thought of walking at one point had been just a distant dream," said Meredith.
Today, Meredith is doing remarkably well. She has since relocated to Boston permanently and continues to build her strength as a participant in Spaulding's Adaptive Sports program and aquatic outpatient therapy. She has become an independent monoskier, received her national classification for Paralympic swimming and regularly participates in adaptive rock climbing.
Meredith has also returned to work fulltime as a cardiac rhythm and heart failure clinical specialist for a major medical device corporation. Additionally, Meredith has shared her story as a featured speaker at multiple speaking engagements, including Winterfest, Spaulding Professional Council's annual fundraising event, and The 2016 Vermont EMS Conference.
"My rehab team helped me not only to find the physical strength needed for rehab, but also the mental strength to push through the frustration and fear, the emotional strength to wipe the tears off your cheeks and to trust that when you stumble, your therapists will catch you, and the spiritual strength to believe in miracles."
Meet Meredith and hear more about her story in this video interview.
This story was originally published by the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. Edits and additions have been made for clarity and style. All photos are credited to the author.
Learn more about the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and the inpatient medical rehabilitation care services it provides.
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