The day before her 31st birthday, Dawn Robinson experienced a life-changing event that left her paralyzed from the ribs down.
She lost control of her vehicle while driving on the Atlantic City Expressway. The last thing Dawn remembers is asking God to make it out alive.
And she did.
Eight weeks later, she awoke from a medically induced coma.
Today, at age 38, Dawn reflects upon her near-death experience as a “life-saving” event because at the time, she was going down the “wrong path” in life.
A paraplegic with a T7 and T8 spinal cord injury, Dawn has taken ownership of her life.
“I’m grateful that I’m here and not disappointed that I can’t walk,” says Dawn.
After receiving care at different health care facilities following the car crash, everything finally started to fall into place for Dawn in 2015. She found a handicapped accessible home in Woodbine, went to driving school and even began driving a specially-equipped car.
“Being able to drive again felt so invigorating,” recalls Dawn. “I just kept driving around because I could. I loved it. I wanted to drive everywhere.”
Bacharach Opens Doors for Spinal Cord Injuries
In 2015, Dawn also started rehab at Bacharach’s CARF accredited Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Center. Under the guidance of a Bacharach doctor of physical medicine, Dawn learned the skills to provide her with maximum level of function and independence.
Bacharach’s multidisciplinary team helped her strengthen existing muscle function and redevelop fine motor skills as part of Dawn’s overall rehab plan, . As part of her therapy, she utilizes the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycling therapy system. FES pulses stimulate peripheral nerves evoking muscle contractions and patterned muscle activity.
Her spasticity is managed though an Intrathecal Baclofen Pump which delivers medicine to the target site in her spinal cord, providing much relief.
In addition to rehab, Bacharach offered more to Dawn than she could ever imagine.
As a mentor of Bacharach’s peer counseling program, Dawn serves as an inspiration to other individuals with spinal cord injuries. “I was a hot mess and understand the trials and tribulations because I was there. Working with people who share similar experiences shows that you’re not alone and that you have your whole life ahead of you.”
She also participates in monthly support group meetings where she enjoys camaraderie and fun activities, led by Becky McGill, PT.
Passion for Paddle Boarding
Dawn was an avid surfer before the accident and through Bacharach she uncovered a related, newfound passion: paddle boarding. Blue Journey Unified, a partnership with Bacharach and the Ocean City Swim Club, is a program that helps those like Dawn, affected by spinal cord injury, get back into the water. On Tuesday nights Dawn heads over to the Ocean City Aquatic Center for boarding activities. Her paddle board is hooked up to a bungie board and swimmer’s block, enabling Dawn to paddle to her own resistance.
“I fell in love with paddle boarding – it’s makes me feel like I’m floating on top of the water. It’s exhilarating and empowering.”
She notes how Bruckner Chase, program founder, saw that she had good balance and encouraged her to compete in a 5-mile race in Strathmere. Now, she’s hoping to compete in an 8-mile competition this summer.
“On land, I’m pushing myself in a wheelchair all the time but on a paddle board I’m on even playing field with everyone else.”