Natalie's Story

Are you more determined than a fifth grader?

“My daughter’s favorite saying is that it’s not that she can’t do something, it’s just a little harder,” says Rachel Norona.  She is the strongest, most determined girl I know.”

A bladder infection in ten year old Natalie, caused Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a painful inflammatory nerve disorder. She lost feeling and movement from her chest to her toes. 

“Natalie went from a healthy kid running with her friends to 30 pounds, and in a wheelchair. It happened so quickly.”

She spent three months at the DMC's Children’s Hospital of Michigan where she received daily intravenous treatments to boost her immune system. Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan's (RIM) pediatric therapists worked to get her moving again. When she left the Children's Hospital of Michigan, she was stable, but couldn’t walk, stand or even hold a fork. Doctors said continued immune system treatments and therapy were her best chance at recovery.

“There was no choice for us.  We continued at Children’s for her treatment because doctors saved her life, and outpatient therapy at RIM because the people and technology are incredible. Once therapists were able to get her standing again, they started strapping her legs and waist into a robot that would walk for her.  All of a sudden it was like her legs said ‘Oh, we see how to do this.’”

Through continued, intense rehabilitation, Natalie has retrained her limbs to do many things, and, with braces she is walking again.

“The first time she walked into the school lunchroom, she got a standing ovation.  It was amazing. And, even more incredible, just nine months after using a wheelchair at the start of school, Natalie walked across the stage at fifth grade graduation.”

Natalie still has room for further recovery, but she thanks RIM for the incredible care and support and says they will continue with therapy until Natalie is fully recovered.