A Walking Miracle

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MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) In the past seven months, 24-year-old Emily DeVooght's life has been flipped upside down more than once. After a spinal cord injury, she is truly a walking miracle.

It was a normal December day on the DeVooght family farm in West Branch Township. Emily was stacking hay when her ladder gave out and she fell 12 feet onto concrete.

"After I fell I couldn't feel my legs so I knew instantly that there was something wrong," said Emily.

Her family called an ambulance who took extra precautions to transport her to ER where doctors diagnosed the problem and called the neurosurgeon.

"Right away they knew I had broken my back and the surgeons came in and said, 'We're going to do the surgery immediately, just know that we don't know if you'll ever walk again," Emily said.

Emily made it clear to Dr. Craig Coccia, M.D., medical director of neuroscience at UP Health System Marquette, that she was going to walk again. The staff at UP Health System Marquette mobilized a team using specialized equipment for Emily's first surgery.

"Our goal was to come in and actually remove the broken bone completely and then rebuild the area and anchor it in with a couple of screws and a plate," said Dr. Coccia.

Emily had a second surgery to build in additional support for her spine so she could return to her family's farm in the future. Emily was in the hospital for six weeks, but some of her hardest work was yet to come in physical therapy.

"We were certainly making good progress we had gone from the wheelchair to a platform walker, then to two canes, then to one cane, but it looked like getting the hump past one cane might be insurmountable," said Kim Spranger, physical therapist and clinic director at UP Health System Rehab Services Sawyer Rehab Clinic.

But that wasn't good enough, so Emily and Kim thought outside the box. They used the Speed Maker. It's a piece of running equipment still in development and altered it for rehabilitation.

"It's called neuromuscular re-education," said Kim. "It helps her body to know how to work in a coordinated fashion."

"When we put it on first I wasn't able to walk that good. I couldn't swing my arms, I couldn't get a good stride and as soon as I put it on I just kind of stood up tall and just walked and I had never done that yet, it was kind of the wow factor," Emily added.

Now 7 months later Emily goes to P.T. three times a week and is running now. While she still has work to do her recovery has been amazing thanks to all of those who helped her along the way.

"I'm just really humbled to be a part of the process," Kim said.

"Emily's been very fortunate, God smiled on her and she has also worked extremely hard to obtain the recovery that she has," Dr. Coccia added.

Now she is back doing what she loves working on the farm doing what she can.

"I want to be a part of the farm, so it's just the little things that are all adding up, just little things that mean a lot," said Emily.

Emily has one more goal to achieve and that's to run a 5k next to her surgeon and physical trainer. She is hoping to make that a reality this fall.

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