Therapy helps Manhattan woman through traumatic spinal cord injury

Health Check

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 11,000 people suffer from spinal cord injuries every year.

One Manhattan woman knows one of the leading causes all too well after a devastating car accident in 2017.

“It was life-changing,” said Lindsay Coltharp. “I was life-flighted to Stormont Vail. They did have to resuscitate me twice in the helicopter and twice at Stormont. With the nerves being completely torn out of my spinal column, that my only way to recover or have any type of recovery from that, would be to have nerve transfer surgery.”

Coltharp’s injuries were so severe, she was sent to the Mayo Clinic for a nerve transfer surgery in March 2018. Even with surgery, she was on a long road to recovery; one she wasn’t sure would ever be possible.

“When I first came in, I had little to no movement in my left arm at all, and even in my shoulder section. I had no movement in my fingers at all. I figured it would be a flail arm. I had it in my head at one point, that I was just going to have it amputated.”

Lindsay Coltharp

She started down that path with occupational and physical therapy at Ascension Via Christi in Manhattan.

“She is one of the most complex traumatic injury patients that I’ve ever worked with,” said Ascension Via Christi Occupational Therapist Calli Jund. “When you’re dealing with nerve transfers, the brain is having to re-teach, and you’re having to relearn how to actually use those muscles because it’s different nerves sending the signals. We just started really slow to try and get any motion we could and progressed to then functional use of her hands.”

Since she couldn’t extend her fingers on her own, therapists recommended she use a SaeboGlove.

“They came up with a new system that allows people to re-train that part of their brain, or to use as a compensatory device, to allow them to open their hand if they don’t have the functional ability to do so,” Jund’s colleague Jason Wollenberg explained. “Lindsay could flex her hand, but could not open it. Once she got the glove on, she was able to go into her day to day life and use that hand.”

Coltharp said the therapy is to thank for giving her back normal family moments.

“It feels great to be able to play with my 10-year-old son, and not have to worry about that arm getting in the way,” Coltharp said.

She now has some feeling and movement abilities in her arm and hand. She hopes to make even more improvements in the future.

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