Archived Stories

Laurel's Story

Dec 28, 2020

Dr. Laurel Flores knows people like to speed on the back roads of Highland, Michigan. Playing it safe, she made a turn and stayed in the right lane. Unfortunately, her tire went off the road, sending her speeding up an eight-foot embankment and straight back down.

“I knew immediately something was wrong,” said Dr. Flores. “I had excruciating back pain, and I didn’t want to compress my spine so I held myself upright in the seat until help arrived.”

When her vehicle slammed back down, a vertebrae in her middle back exploded. She had emergency surgery to remove bone fragments, and fortunately, her spinal cord wasn’t severed. When medically stable, she was transferred to the DMC’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM).

“As an internal medicine doctor at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, I knew of RIM’s outstanding reputation,” said Dr. Flores. “There was really nothing for me to decide, that’s where I was going.”

Dr. Flores wasn’t able to move or feel anything when she got to RIM. Her goal during her month-long inpatient stay was to get back to work and to the Phantom Regiment, a drum and bugle corps, where she volunteers as a medic.

“The team at RIM really knows what they’re doing, especially with spinal cord injuries,” said Dr. Flores. “Thanks to multiple therapies and the Ekso (a robotic exoskeleton), I progressed faster than I expected. When I left, I had feeling and could move my legs, and I could control my bodily functions.”

Shortly after starting outpatient therapy at RIM Novi in March of 2020, it shut down because of theCOVID-19 pandemic, but Dr. Flores did Pilates therapy at another facility until RIM reopened.

“I’m walking with assistance and continuing to work on my balance,” said Dr. Flores. “Physical therapy is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At RIM, they’re 100% there for you. I talk with people who’ve been at other facilities, and the therapy doesn’t even come close. There isn’t one therapist I can call out because they’re all great. They were all so supportive. As a doctor, I thought I understood what my patients are going through. But now that I’ve been a patient, I truly didn’t have an understanding of how difficult it really is.”

Click here to learn more about RIM’s Spinal Cord Injury Program