When Natalie was only 20 years old and a student at Wilkes University, she was riding in a car with a friend. They had a very serious accident, the car flipped five times, and Natalie was thrown from it. She injured her spine at the T vertebrae, causing paralysis from the chest down.
Natalie spent a month as an inpatient at Allied Rehab Hospital in Scranton, where she worked with physical therapist Gina Tomassoni, who specializes in working with patients with Spinal Cord Injuries. Natalie had also broken her wrist in the accident, making therapy even more challenging. Still, she says Gina was able to help her gain strength and learn to transfer herself in and out of her wheelchair. “Gina was great,” says Natalie. “She made me feel so much more independent.”
By the time Natalie “graduated” from the inpatient Spinal Cord Injury program and became an outpatient, her wrist was out of its cast. This allowed her physical therapist, Stacey Cox, to help her get much stronger, and learn new ways to move. Stacey She also worked with occupational therapist Stephanie Maciolek, on hand therapy to get back strength and full function in her wrist.
“Stacey was amazing, and so was everyone I worked with at Allied,” says Natalie. “Stacey is dedicated to making sure I get the most of each time I go to therapy, which is now three times a week. My spinal cord was not severed, so there is a good possibility I can regain more function.”
Natalie, now 21, lives with her aunt in Throop, and with her three cats. She’s “negotiating” with her aunt to get a dog too. Originally from Avoca, Natalie would like to return there someday. But first she would like to return somewhere much more important to her. She wants to get back to Wilkes University and pick up where she left off before her accident.
Natalie has learned to drive through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and she is not sure whether to commute to school, or to live on campus. Either way, she is happy to move ahead in her studies and with her life.
A very good student, Natalie is majoring in biology. She hopes to get into dental school someday. If she is as persistent in school as she has been with her therapy at Allied, she will be very successful, as a dentist or whatever path she chooses to take.
Natalie’s positive attitude shines through whenever she talks. Asked what kind of music she likes, she said, “I like all music, but I love country.” Asked about schook, she says, “I can’t wait to get back. I just feel smarter when I’m studying and learning.” Asked which therapist at Allied she was closest to, she just couldn’t choose a favorite, “All of the therapists I worked with at Allied were amazing!”