Newnan resident Joan Hope Latiolais was left nearly paralyzed when she fell from her horse and suffered a tragic spinal cord injury in late 2008.
Joan and her husband had been tracking foxes in Moreland, Ga., when her horse’s leg fell into a 2.5 foot deep hole. The sudden drop caused her horse to fall forward, throwing Joan to the ground face forward and hyper-extending the cervical vertebrae in her neck.
The resulting spinal cord injury left her 80 percent paralyzed, with little movement or sensation below her chest.
Four years later, she is on a steady path to recovery with the help of Karyn Staples, a local physical therapist who has been by her side the entire way.
Karyn first set up her physical therapy and Pilates studio, ProHealth, seven years ago to deliver a combination of therapy and Pilates exercises that support recovery.
She was first introduced to Joan in the fall of 2012.
Joan had been seeking methods to restore strength and flexibility to her body and, having previously done Pilates, decided to find a physical therapist who could incorporate similar exercises into her treatment.
Karyn began to meet with Joan two times a week, using intensive training methods and modified Pilates techniques to assist with her recovery.
Before starting treatment, Joan had hoped, over time, she would be able to independently transfer into and out of her wheelchair.
Now, Joan has met that goal and is able to sit up and move to and from her wheelchair with minimal assistance.
Karyn credits Joan’s drastic improvement to a variety of exercises that have helped stretch and strengthen core muscles in her body. Karyn uses a series of Pilates techniques to work Joan’s legs and upper extremities, making her body stronger.
For patients recovering from serious injuries, exercise is fundamental to recovery. But Karyn emphasizes it is also important to know how to correctly use your body.
And in Joan’s case, it was about re-learning the basic movements of her body.
“We had to find ways to incorporate exercise techniques that motivated and excited her,” says Karyn, “and remind her what her body can do, helping her become more aware and in control of her movements.”
Karyn says working alongside Joan and witnessing her recovery has been an inspiration.
“That’s my whole reason for being a PT,” says Karyn, “Watching Joan’s demeanor change as well as her ability to feel better about herself, that’s why I got into this profession. It is about the gift they are giving me.”
Karyn reminds patients who are facing long recoveries and physical hardships that while exercise can make a huge difference, it is also a mental battle.
And that hard work, determination, courage and of course a little hope can go a long way.