FDA grad injured in waterslide accident

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A vacation in Orange Beach, Ala., turned into a nightmare for a Greenville family.

Jennifer Smith, a 1999 Fort Dale Academy graduate, was vacationing with her family. On the night of Sept. 11, she made a trip down a waterslide at the condo where the family was staying.

When she hit the water, she sustained a neck injury that left her unable to move her legs and with little movement in her arms. She was airlifted to a hospital in Pensacola for treatment.

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“After numerous tests, our worst fear was confirmed,” said Jennifer’s sister Leslie Smith. “She was diagnosed with a fractured C5 vertebrae with spinal cord injury.”

Jennifer had surgery on Sept. 12. Although the spinal cord was intact, it had been compressed during the accident.

After a week in Pensacola, Jennifer was transferred to the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta, for inpatient rehabilitation.

“They have been absolutely wonderful,” said Leslie. “She will tentatively be there for eight weeks of inpatient rehab, followed by three more weeks of outpatient therapy. She has made great progress so far. She has greater control of both arms, and although she has no movement in her legs, she has regained some sensation. She really doesn’t have much movement in her hands and fingers, but is able to move her wrists so they have been able to set her up with all kinds of adaptive equipment. She can feed herself with special utensils, use her phone with assistive devices, and even write. She has been working very hard in therapy and her hard work definitely shows.”

Leslie said that Jennifer has managed to keep her sense of humor throughout her injury.

“She remains in her usual good spirits and it’s clear that she will not let this defeat her,” she said. “The outpouring of love and encouragement, not only for her, but for the whole family, has been so humbling and we will never be able to thank everyone enough.”

In addition to the medical costs, this type of injury requires specialized equipment and home renovations that can be very expensive and typically not covered by medical insurance. To help offset some of the costs, a GoFundMe page has been set up for Jennifer. The goal is to raise $10,000. As of Tuesday, $3,380 has been raised.

“We have had a number of family and friends ask how they could donate so we felt this would be the easiest and best way to accomplish this,” said Leslie. “We can’t thank everyone enough for all the love and prayers we have received. It means everything to Jennifer.  Please keep all the prayers coming. We are seeing the results of them everyday.”