After Kelly was left paralyzed, a cuttingedge surgery helped her walk again
When Kelly Thomas was left paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident, doctors told her she’d never walk again. But four years later, a cutting-edge surgery has her striding toward a hopeful new future
“With faith and hard work, miracles do happen!”
Kelly Thomas stared at her neurosurgeon and asked the question that had been on her mind for days: “Will I ever be able to walk again?”
It had been two months since the Homosassa, Florida, 19-year-old had arrived at the hospital after a car crash had left her paralyzed from the waist down. She had tried to stay positive, but as a frown settled on her doctor’s face, Kelly felt her hope wavering.
“I would give you a one percent chance of ever walking again,” her doctor replied, solemnly.
Kelly’s mind reeled. She was young, active, studying to become a physical therapist. This can’t be the rest of my life, she thought defiantly.
“Don’t chase something that’s never going to happen,” he advised gently.
“I am going to walk again,” Kelly replied. “No matter what, I’ll be your one percent.”
A second chance
In the months that followed, Kelly was moved to an inpatient facility where three days a week, she fought through grueling physical therapy to learn how to sit up on her own and stand with assistance.
Yet despite her triumphs, three years went by and Kelly was no closer to walking. “God, help me through this,” she’d pray tearfully.
But then her doctor told her about a program that was recruiting subjects to receive epidural stimulator implants. After surgery, participants would be able to turn the implant on with a remote and send the nerves below their injuries the signals their brains used to. As Kelly learned more, her heart filled with hope: This is my chance to walk again!
Kelly was screened and accepted into the study and spent four months prepping before finally having the surgery in August of 2017. And from the moment she turned on her stimulator, she knew the vibration in her body meant good things. “I can feel the muscles in my legs!” she beamed.
The real work lay ahead, however, as Kelly faced hours of physical therapy five times a week, with one phrase keeping her going: “God is with me. I will not fail.”
Walking in hope
Though the gains were small at first, Kelly’s miracle finally happened in January of 2018.
Standing beside her physical therapist, Kelly suddenly lifted her foot up and drove her leg forward for the first time in four years. As her therapist broke out in a victory dance and Kelly hugged her tightly, tears of joy coursed down her face.
“Oh my God,” she cried. “I’m actually walking! I am walking! ”
Today Kelly is able to use a walker to get around, but she doesn’t plan on stopping there. “I want to walk with no help at all,” the 24-year-old smiles. Kelly has also returned to college and passionately shares her story. “I want to spread hope to people like me,” she says. “I prayed for God to give me the strength to keep going, and here I am. Never give up, anything is possible!”
— Alexandra Pollock
“I’m proof that our bodies can heal!” says Kelly, who had a 1% chance of walking again