ANN ARBOR, Michigan (WNEM) -- Keeping her balance as she takes a single step forward is a challenge 20-year-old Rebekah Caudle never thought she’d be facing this year.
“It’s frustrating, but I have to realize that my future isn’t going to look like my past,” Rebekah said.
Caudle suffered a severe brain injury on New Year’s Day after a crash on an Ann Arbor highway. She was fleeing to safety when she was hit by another vehicle. She was rushed to the University of Michigan Medical Center and would spend the next 20 days in the Intensive Care Unit.
“My mom has a picture of me with a trachea. I look at that and to me, I think that happened to someone else because I can’t remember it,” Rebekah said.
Her parents remember the nightmare all too well. Caudle also had multiple skull fractures, broken ribs and a punctured lung. She didn’t speak a single word for several days.
“We came really close to not being able to talk to her again,” said Phillip Caudle, Rebekah’s father.
Rebekah’s father said he knew all along his daughter was going to make it, but her mom said she had a much harder time coping with what was happening. They both relied heavily on their faith to get them through the difficult days in the hospital.
“I would scream, cry, pray, cry, reset, go a few hours, do it again and then reset,” said Nancy Caudle, Rebekah's mom.
Once stable, doctor’s approved Rebekah being transferred to the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids. It was there that her parents said her recovery began to accelerate.
“I just out of the blue asked her to stand up and sit up on the mat table, and without delay, she stood up,” said Troy Noll, physical therapist.
It was a rare development only 10 days into her intense rehab that she could stand-up and perform that task. Only days after that, Rebekah spoke her first word, “mom.”
“It’s very emotional to see your daughter almost dead, to doing things that you feel should be very easy,” Phillip Caudle said.
After several weeks, Rebekah walked out of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to a standing ovation after completing several different forms of therapy.
“I am determined to get back as close to normal as I can,” she said.
Rebekah is back home in Flint living with her parents and she now attends therapy several hours a week at the Mary Free Bed at Covenant in Saginaw.
“She’s very young and motivated and she’s ready to get back where she was,” said Stacy Krueger, occupational therapist.
Rebekah wants to be independent and living on her own. She is a certified yoga instructor and her goal is to get back to doing that as an occupation.
“Look forward and don’t look back. What you used to be able to do, might not be what you can do now,” Rebekah said.
Rebekah said she may also consider going back to school to become a physical therapist to help people who suffer the same types of injuries she suffered.
“I think all that has changed is that now I am going to go forward being more grateful for the life that I have,” she said.
For now, Rebekah spends her days and nights working to rebuild her muscle and coordination. She loves watching “The Nanny” with Fran Drescher at night and it makes her laugh talking about it. She hopes to be able to dance to pop music soon because she misses that most of all.
“At night, I would listen to music in my headphone and just dance, and now I can’t do that because I have to be careful,” Rebekah said.
Rebekah became a certified yoga instructor before the crash and she's determined to teach yoga. She says maybe one day she'll even become a physical therapist to help people like her who are determined to rebuild their lives.
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