Two Long Years Later, Sam is a Wellness Coach at the Benjamin Harrison Y
After graduating from IUPUI, Samantha Schultz went on a vacation that changed her life forever. On Sept. 11, 2016, she and her friend put on helmets and set out on a downhill bike ride in the Rocky Mountains. On their way down, the 23-year-old flipped over the handle bars and fell onto the pavement. She yelled to her friend, who turned to see her laying on the ground having seizures. He called 9-1-1 immediately.
LUCK ON HER SIDE
Once a year the Rocky Mountain Rescue Team trains in the mountains, and Sam was fortunate that it was that day and only a quarter mile away from the site of her accident. She was air lifted to Boulder Community Hospital where she spent 31 days in the ICU, 14 of them in a medically-induced coma to reduce brain swelling. Once she was stable enough to be transferred, she was moved to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital where she spent 70 more days in intensive therapy.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Craig Rehab Hospital,” says Sam.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Sam calls it shaken adult syndrome, because that’s basically what happened. When she hit the ground, her brain shook in her skull causing a brain bleed in the right basil ganglia, which later effected balance and coordination on the left side of her body. She had a nearly 5-inch gash around her left eye and another by her nose. Despite her helmet, Sam’s injuries were severe enough that she had to learn how to eat, walk, talk, and many other tasks, all over again.
Sam doesn’t remember the accident. She doesn’t remember one week before or a month after. What she does remember is that she worked hard to get where she is today. At Craig Hospital, she was in therapy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Finally, the week of her 24th birthday, she was able to walk again and got to come back home to Indiana.
HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA
Coming home was bittersweet. Over 100 people met her at the airport. Friends and family surrounded her with love and support. However, her recovery hit a roadblock. Insurance only covers 20 sessions of outpatient therapy a year. Sam needed 365 days of care. Not deterred, she took it upon herself to literally get back on her feet, using a seated elliptical machine at the gym to get her body moving again. She improved every day, stayed motivated and worked hard.
SURROUNDED BY SUPPORT, CARE
Sam was chosen for Indiana’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which supports people with disabilities and prepares them for employment. This program connected Sam to Linda Hegewald at Easterseals Crossroads, one of two employment consultants who work with head injured and stroke individuals and who have special knowledge in brain neuropsychology.
“Samantha was assigned to me in May of 2017,” Linda recalls. “She had a solid education and knew the type of work she wanted to do.”
Sam lives close to the Benjamin Harrison YMCA, which had already been working with Easterseals for about three years, offering clients opportunities to job shadow and for internships and job trials. With help from her family with transportation, this seemed like a viable option.
“When Samantha and I toured the facility, everyone there was so friendly and supportive,” said Linda. “They really gave her a feeling of belonging and wanting to do something positive with her life. It was amazing how Y members greeted her each day, asked how she was progressing and supported her. Later, she told me how on the first day she came to work without a cane, members asked her if she’d forgotten it or needed to borrow one. They were so happy to hear that she no longer needed a cane.”
FROM VOLUNTEER TO WELLNESS COACH
Sam loved volunteering at the YMCA, a place where she feels like she truly belongs, and was recognized as a Volunteer of the Year last fall. Y members and guests appreciate her dedication to them. They enjoy talking with her and the help she provides.
With a degree in Kinesiology, she knew she’d be the perfect fit when a position opened in the Wellness Center.
On the morning she interviewed for the job, Sam drove to the YMCA. This had been her goal for two years. The Easterseals driver evaluation and training program assisted with this milestone as well, installing a steering wheel spinner to Sam’s car, and moving the turn signal switch to the right side of the steering wheel giving her the independence she needed to get to work on her own.
After volunteering for three months, she was hired.
“I love the position of a Wellness Coach, because I get to offer my love and knowledge to help people better their lifestyle,” says Sam.
Sam’s supervisor Lorrayne says, “It’s a privilege to have Sam here. She is so encouraging. She has the biggest heart and is the epitome of a coach. She is a team player, and with her determination, she’s already made a big impact at the Y.”
SETTING AND ACHIEVING GOALS
Sam continues to work on strengthening her left hand, and her next goal is to put her hair in a high ponytail¾by herself. Her six-month goal is to be able to run again. She hopes to run in the Benjamin Harrison YMCA Freedom 5K on July 7. With constant hard work and her ability to push herself, we know we’ll see her there.