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A Story of Determination (and a Spinal Cord Injury)

Spinal cord injuries can have a devastating impact on your life. Michelle Konkoly knows all about just how life changing a spinal cord injury can be. But, her determination and perseverance is proof that suffering a spinal cord injury doesn’t mean you have to stop living.

spinal cord injury

The Accident and A Devastating Spinal Cord Injury

Michelle Konkoly was a high school swim star in her freshman year at Georgetown University when her life was forever altered. In a terrible accident she fell out of a 5th floor dorm room window.

As a result of the accident she suffered a punctured lung, damaged spinal cord, and several broken bones, including the L2 vertebra.

When Michelle woke up in the hospital she couldn’t feel or control anything from the waist down. Doctors asked her to wiggle her toes. She tried to, but looking down, saw no movement from her feet. For the next two months Michelle was paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors weren’t sure if she would ever walk again.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Michelle was determined that this wasn’t the end of her swimming career. With support from the team at her rehabilitation center, Michelle’s determination prevailed and she took her first steps about 3 months after her accident. Another 3 months later and Michelle was walking on her own.

Life After Recovery

Michelle began swimming with her team again but quickly realized she wasn’t able to compete as well as before. The injuries and changes to her body as a result left her at a different level of swimming.

The good news, there’s a place for athletes to compete with other individuals in a similar situation, the Paralympics. Michelle joined the US Paralympic swim team and went on to earn 4 medals, including 2 golds.

What’s Next for Michelle?

Michelle’s experiences rehabilitating from a spinal cord injury inspired her to pursue a career in medicine.

She is now in her fourth year of medical school and recently did a clinical rotation at the rehabilitation center where she recovered. She had the opportunity to work alongside some of the doctors, nurses, and staff at the center who helped in her recovery.

Michelle’s goal? A career in pediatric rehabilitation. Based on the determination she’s shown thus far, there’s no doubt she can do it.




*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
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