Michigan teen walks out of rehab 4 months after being told she may never walk again

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Big Rapids teen is back home after suffering a serious spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed.

Through physical and occupational therapy and most of all faith and determination, 18-year-old Katelynn Bechaz was able to walk out of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital this week.

“When I first got to Mary Free Bed the one thing I said to the therapist and nurses was that I would walk out of here, and I stuck by that,” Bechaz said.

In July, she was driving around with friends down a back country road when a deer jumped out in front of her car. She lost control while serving to avoid the deer and the car flipped over four times.

Katelynn’s friends received minor injuries while the crash left her with more questions than pain.

“I remember waking up and becoming conscious and sitting there like oh I can’t move. What’s going on,” she questioned. “I remember screaming someone get me out of the car because the feeling of not being able to move was just terrifying enough.”

That fear was something Katelynn had never experienced before, and what made it even worse, was a prognosis that no one would ever want to hear.

“The doctors at Devos said I’d be lucky to move my arms,” she said.

The accident left Katelynn paralyzed from the neck down. After spending 10 days at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital, she was transferred to rehab and was determined to beat the odds.

“When I first got here everyone had to do everything for me. I couldn’t do anything myself,” she said. “I’m so young. I just wanted to be able to do my own things in life.”

She started off with no daily progress but overtime she began to make great strides. Katelynn was able to regain feeling. She was finally able to hold up her head, move her arms and eventually her legs.

“No one thought that would ever be a possibility,” Pediatric Inpatient Occupational Therapist, Sydney Krol said. With incomplete spinal injuries we are never quite sure how much sensory or motor return the patients would get,” Krol said.

“It’s kind of a guess in the dark as to what level of functioning they’ll be leaving but week by week Katelynn said she would walk out of here and no one could tell her differently.”

Krol, who has seen her fair share of miracle patients, spent about an hour each day with Katelynn.

The teen had limited sensation and even had to undergo speech therapy to help with breathing and talking.

“She’s so strong-willed. I’ve never seen anything like it on the adult spectrum versus on the pediatric level as a 17-year-old woman.”

Katelynn spent 123 days in intensive rehab care and finally left the hospital on December 8. Although it was bittersweet to walk out of those doors, she will forever cherish the friendships made.

Now, she hopes to inspire others they too can do anything they put their minds to.

“Do not let the little voice in your head talk down to you or get you down about your progressor anything you are trying to do,” she said.

The teen is planning to accomplish more goals by learning how to drive again and getting back into the workforce.

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