Alexa Cantwell, a 27 year old from Indianapolis, didn’t become a wheelchair-user instantaneously like so many others who injure their spinal cords. Instead, when she was just 8 years old, Alexa sustained a spinal stroke which resulted in a gradual decline in her mobility through her teens.
The spinal stroke caused damage from the C2 to T2 vertabrae. “Because of the nature of the stroke, it took doctors a long time to discover what actually happened,” Alexa says. “I started using AFO leg braces when I was around 10 years old and later used forearm crutches. I didn’t use a wheelchair full-time until I was seventeen.”
Since a spinal stroke can cause an incomplete injury, Alexa’s entire body is affected in some way. She still has some sensation throughout her body. “Just a little less in my legs and feet. I can also move my legs a very small amount,” she says.
When Alexa was 12, her family moved into an accessible home as a precautionary step. By the time she was in her teens she needed to use the elevator and accessible apartment in the basement. “When I was in college, we renovated my bathroom so I could use it independently. We installed a roll-in shower with a bench, a sink I can roll under, and bars by the toilet. I’m so grateful to have a house that I could easily transition to,” Alexa says.
Since her injury was not traumatic, she did not go through traditional specialized neurological rehabilitation. Instead, she was sent to general physical therapy. “Before being at NeuroHope, I had gone to a facility that specialized in helping patients with neurological injuries and conditions, but it was still pretty traditional in a lot of ways. I wasn’t showing enough improvement after a short time so I was discharged.”
Frustrated with the results of therapy, she wanted more and was introduced to NeuroHope when she saw a post on Instagram. “I checked out their page not realizing NeuroHope was in Indiana. I was surprised and excited to find out they were so close to where I lived. I wanted to try out a place that offered something different from traditional physical therapy but everything I found was too far away.”
Alexa has now been coming to NeuroHope for more than a year and has seen exciting results. “I’ve always been drawn to alternative methods instead of the traditional route when it comes to my health, so NeuroHope was right up my alley. One of my favorite things is the Xcite machine (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation). At my first appointment, I got to use it and stand up with a walker. It felt really good to be on my feet again.”
Now working as a self-employed lifestyle and wellness coach after graduating with writing and business administration degrees, Alexa stays busy with family and friends when she’s not working. “They’re so supportive and I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she says. “I also enjoy serving at church and traveling. I haven’t been out of the country since I’ve been in my chair, but it’s on my bucket list.”