AHS assists with rehabilitation… and graduation

September 5, 2017

High school senior arrives ‘so broken,’ leaves a graduate

Amanda Burt, 18, poses with her mother Nicole and father Randy during a belated high school graduation ceremony at the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka.

Video / Photo by Evan Isbister

Amanda Burt’s Grade 12 year didn’t go as planned.

Yet, today, she’s a high school graduate and, for that, she thanks the Alberta Health Services (AHS) care teams that have supported her over the past two years.

“I came so broken,” says the 18-year-old Lacombe resident. “(My care teams) are the reason I graduated.”

Amanda’s story is the subject of the latest instalment in the AHS Because You Cared video series.

In 2015, Amanda was weeks away from entering her senior year in high school when she sustained a brainstem injury in a motor vehicle collision.

She was rushed to hospital in Red Deer, then airlifted to Calgary where she was admitted to the intensive care units at Foothills Medical Centre and, later, Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“The first 24 hours, you’re just in shock,” recalls Nicole Burt, Amanda’s mother.

Adds father Randy Burt: “What we were told was: if you had six people with exactly the same brain injury, you’re going to get six different results — from not even waking up to not even knowing they’ve been in an accident.”

Once Amanda’s condition stabilized, she was transferred to the rehabilitation unit at Alberta Children’s Hospital where she started to put the pieces of her life back together.

“The leaps and bounds in the first three months were pretty impressive,” says Randy. “She went from being not able to hold her head up to, in November, not being happy with being in a wheelchair.”

Three months after the collision, Amanda was transferred to the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka, where she focused on her rehabilitation … and starting her Grade 12 courses.

“We focused mainly on reading comprehension and written expression,” says Maureen Montegary, principal of the Patient School at the Halvar Johnson Centre. “We worked a lot initially just relearning some of those skills and getting back into doing school things … then we got into addressing some of the credits she still needed.”

Physical and occupational therapists helped Amanda regain the ability to dress herself, to walk and even to prepare her own meals.

Amanda’s care providers were impressed by her drive and optimism.

“She motivated herself,” says physical therapist Heather Pollock, “but by the time you were done working with her, you were usually in a better mood yourself.”

Then, this spring, once Amanda had earned the credits she needed to graduate, her care team at the Halvar Jonson organized a surprise high school graduation ceremony for her.

“That meant a lot,” Amanda says.

And the graduation ceremony meant a lot to Amanda’s parents as well.

“The medical staff, from the beginning to the end, truly care about people and they make a huge difference in people’s lives,” says Nicole.

“How do you say ‘thank you’ for that?” asks Randy.

“They gave us our daughter back.”

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