Courage to find gratitude each day comes straight from Amanda McCoy's heart and personal faith after a snowboarding accident left her paralyzed from the belly button down during the year she turned 21. Her rite of passage that year clearly took an unexpected turn, made more challenging due to the injury happening while she was enjoying her most beloved sport. Despite what happened physically on Jan. 11, 2018, this Newtown area resident chooses to mentally focus on little miracles that weave themselves into her life.
Now 26, Amanda works weekly with Ilene Morris White, owner of Newtown Health and Wellness in Newtown, to recapture her physical path forward fueled by Pilates exercises and body conditioning at the fully equipped gym that Ilene operates.
How Amanda and Ilene's paths crossed after the accident was happenchance. However, it appears another one of those 'meant to be' occurrences in Amanda's life, given that Ilene is uniquely qualified to assist with the challenges Amanda faces. Ilene has 20-plus years of experience in personal training and therapeutic rehabilitation. She graduated from Temple University with a degree in exercise physiology. She is Polestar rehab-trained in Pilates and a PMA-NCPT (nationally certified comprehensively Pilates Professional). She's licensed in Pilates for neurological issues (a Pilates-based method taught by The Neuro Studio), such as Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke patients and brain injuries. She's also a licensed Buff Bones instructor for those with osteoporosis/prevention.
"When I landed on my back that day, it shattered the T12 vertebra. It felt like my body was torn in half, but by the grace of God, I was able to remain super calm," recalls Amanda, whose back is now supported with rods after emergency surgery for a spinal fusion to address her paraplegia.
While in ICU and inpatient care for several months, Amanda says she was told by doctors she had a one in a million chance of ever walking again. "It was the hardest experience of my life, but I've never felt so much love from the people around me, so I kept focusing on the positive moments. I tried working with physical therapists, but it seemed everyone was approaching it from the standpoint I'd be in a wheelchair my whole life. But I wanted to walk!"
Amanda says Ilene was the first health professional who truly understood what she wanted: a positive, healing environment and ways to regain movement. "My goal was to be independent, content and happy in the present moment. I wanted to learn to be present with my body that felt broken," remembers Amanda.
She says the loss of her legs prompted a grieving process. "But I'm really faith-based and trusted that God had a plan, that it was a better plan than I could come up with myself."
Amanda cites the Bible states people "will have peace beyond human understanding." She says she knows her strength is not her own, that it comes God.
While Amanda was working on becoming emotionally stronger, Ilene noticed Amanda was bracing and not using her core, or the surrounding muscles, to help stand from her wheelchair. "I taught Amanda using the four-quadrant stability model as well as core strengthening to help her sit upright and to have more efficient movement. She was the first person I worked with due to a spinal cord injury, and we learned together how to help her regain core strength and lumbo-pelvic stability, as well as improved posture," says Ilene.
"Now I can move my hips, and I'm still discovering what my body can do," Amanda joyfully adds.
She's also learned to drive her car with hand controls. "I'm 100% independent, with no caretakers, and still progressing. I'm active and the Bible is my foundation for thankfulness. Prayer is powerful. I do everything I once did, I just do it from sitting. I handle so much with my arms, and I have to get creative sometimes," she says. "But because I focus on all the positives, being paralyzed isn't a constant thought in my mind."
"Perspective is everything," concludes Amanda.
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"I'm still Amanda," declares this young woman tackling life despite paraplegia. Outside of gym training, Amanda enjoys being outdoors in parks, worship music, cooking and always learning something new.