Miraculous recovery after 9 year-old has stroke - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Miraculous recovery after 9 year-old has stroke

By Tara Thomas

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- There was a time when stroke or paralysis patients were told they would never regain much function beyond what returned shortly after it happened. Today we know that is definitely not the case.

It was the summer of 1986 when Shelley Kennedy found herself in a wheelchair. The athletic girl from Farley had a stroke.

"I just thought it was a dream," she recalled.

She was only 9-years-old and lost the use of her right side.

"My mouth was numb like, you know, when you have Novacaine in it," said Kennedy. "It was just numb and my eye drooped and I couldn't talk."

Eventually Shelley was able to walk and talk again, but she never regained much mobility in her right hand.

More than twenty years later, the 31-year-old is getting her hand function back using this new tool, called Bioness, at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.

"She went from not being able to open and close her fingers to now she's able to feed herself," said Sue Hoey, an occupational therapist, "or to play a simple tune on a keyboard. And everyday she somes to see me she talks about new things she's able to do with that hand."

It's true. In just a few short weeks using the splint-like device, Shelley can control her hand again.

"I'm a single mom and that's been awesome because now I can put together puzzles with her," said Shelley.

Hoey says the $6,000, custom-fit brace provides electrical stimulation to muscles that open and close the hand.

"Doctors used to tell people that six months to a year after a stroke or a brain injury what you've got is what you've got. And that is absolutely not true anymore," said Hoey.

From playing the piano to throwing a ball, activities like this are exciting for shelley to be able to do with both hands, even though she had to wait 22 years for it to happen.

"If you give up on yourself, no one else is gonna, you're gonna fade away and I don't wanna do that," said Shelley.

Covenant Medical Center has six Bioness devices like Shelley uses for rehab patients.

Online Reporter: Tara Thomas, Adam Carros

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