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Published on July 15, 2019

Former Track Star Has to Take One Step at a Time

Cone Health Outpatient Rehab

Kimberly Saunders is a 41-year-old. She is positive, goal-oriented and good at staying on task. These traits served her well first as a student and track athlete at North Carolina State University, and then as a marketing professional at a Fortune 500 company.

When Kimberly went through a life- threatening event everything changed. It started with a headache that lasted several days. Something wasn’t right. After a rough night of sleep, Kimberly woke up disoriented. Although her left leg was weak, she managed to get down two flights of stairs and leave her apartment. Neighbors noticed a problem and called an ambulance. A CT scan at the Emergency Department showed signs of a stroke.

Cone Health Outpatient Rehab

Kimberley Saunders

Kimberly spent the next three weeks in a coma on a ventilator with a feeding tube in her stomach. No one knew if she would ever walk or talk again. However, on her birthday, she woke up on and asked for water. After a couple of months spent on inpatient rehabilitation, she was able to walk again. Kimberly came to Cone Outpatient Neurorehabilitation Center and worked hard with occupational and physical therapists. She recently walked a mile of the Heart & Stroke.

Kimberly still has trouble controlling the muscles on her left side. To make walking easier without using a brace, Kimberly uses a high-tech muscle stimulation system. She has an electronic device strapped to her leg in two places. Her therapist uses an iPad to set up the parameters of the stimulation so that when she takes a step with her weak leg, the device sends a signal to make her lower leg muscles contract. This helps lift up her toes so that she doesn’t drag them or trip over them. Don’t be mistaken—Kim has to work hard even when the device is helping. But it’s exciting to get the benefits of a leg brace without any brace.

Kim will tell you she’s a strong, powerful woman. She uses the things she was good at before—being goal-oriented and staying on task. She pulls from her experiences as a college athlete. She stays positive, digs deep and works hard, using her formula for success: 75% her effort and 25% rehab.

Where most of us would ask “Why me?” in this situation, Kim genuinely asks the opposite, “Why not me?” because she feels she can bear this where perhaps someone else could not. She knows she’s going to make it. And she finds meaning by giving. Kim and her family started a foundation that performs charitable acts like feeding the homeless and sponsoring events for seniors. All of it adds up to success.