Weiss is taking life one day at a time

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 04/08/97.

A car accident in August of 1996 changed Shannon Weiss future plans. Instead of going off to college with her friends, she is living at Courage Center and doing physical therapy every day. The daughter of Joe and Pat Weiss, Rice Lake, Shannon learned firsthand how quick accidents can happen.

On Aug. 11, Shannon and her cousin were out driving. Shannon said she was fiddling with something and the car started to veer. Her cousin yelled and she made a quick turn, hitting soft dirt which pulled the vehicle off the road.

Everything happened so fast, I wasnt driving more than 45 miles per hour, Shannon said. The next thing I knew we were in mid air and then the car dropped to the ground. We got out of the car fast. My seatbelt had come loose as a result of the accident. At that time, I didnt know I had hurt my back.

Tests at the hospital showed Shannon had shattered the T12 vertebrae in her lower back. She had also sustained facial burns from the cars air bag.

Shannon spent two months in the St. Cloud Hospital. When I entered the hospital I still had feeling in my knees and thighs. Following surgery, I couldnt feel anything. We are still hopeful that I will get some feeling back. Doctors said it could take a year or more before I regain any feeling, Shannon said. During the surgery they took two of her ribs to rebuild her vertebrae.

The doctors wont say how much feeling I could regain. They dont want to get my hopes up, she added.

In February, Shannon moved into the Courage Center in Golden Valley and returns home weekends. She has physical therapy every weekday and is trying to walk using braces and a walker. I can only walk a very short distance, she said.

Since using a wheelchair, I have started noticing a difference in my arm strength, she said. Shannon has even beat her younger brother at arm wrestling.

I just live one day at a time. I try not to worry about everything and think positively that everything will be fine, she said.

Shannon says she has a little muscle movement in one leg which she considers encouraging.

In one group, she meets with others who have had spinal cord injuries. It helps us learn more about our injury by talking with others who have experienced the same things I have, Shannon said. I love listening to their stories and how far they have progressed. It is just amazing. I feel lucky after seeing the quadraplegics in the group. There are many others worse off than I am, she added.

Besides working on strengthening her legs and arms, she spends time with an occupational therapist, vocational counselor, transitional specialist and a tutor. The tutor is helping her prepare for college next fall. Shannon hopes to be able to enter the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Besides being wheelchair bound, Shannon wears a TLSO brace which gives her extra back support. She has been told she has to wear it anywhere from eight months to a year. The brace will give her back a chance to heal further. It extends from her waist to her upper chest. The brace keeps my back straight and wont let me twist or bend, Shannon said. It is better to be safe than sorry, she said of the brace. She even has to wear the brace swimming.

Shannon is waiting word on when she can start visiting the Sister Kenney Institute for a biofeedback program. The program will see if I have any muscle left, she said. I sometimes can tell when a muscle is moving on the inside of my legs, but on the outside you cant see anything happen, she added.

Her dad, Joe, feels she is a brave kid. Shannon is looking forward to learning how to drive with hand controls, he said. But she has to get rid of the torso brace first. I feel the brace has helped. She is getting better, but she still has a long road ahead of her yet, he added. We are taking it one step at a time. First she had to get out of the hospital, then into Courage Center, and now into the Sister Kenney Institute.

We have all learned to be a little more patient because of her accident, he said. Shannon has a strong faith that she will get better. We dont look at how bad it is because it could have been worse.

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