Thirty-one-year-old Meredith Berkowitz is a self-proclaimed “burn the candle at both ends” person. She had a full-time graphic design/marketing job, created her own jewelry line, worked at an art gallery, and was a freelance graphic designer. She and her boyfriend Nick loved going to shows, concerts, and exploring the local food scene in St. Louis.
Last summer, they invited friends to celebrate the Fourth of July in their newly renovated backyard. Meredith was in their above-ground pool when she woke up face down in the water, unable to move her arms or legs.
“I don’t know what happened…I don’t remember hitting my head” she says. Her friends pulled her from the pool and administered CPR until the ambulance arrived.
Meredith underwent emergency surgery that confirmed she had fractured vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down. While she was in the ICU, her family began exploring rehabilitation options and made an “obvious choice” to come to Craig.
After being transported to Craig by air ambulance, Meredith quickly bonded with her interdisciplinary team.
“When I first arrived, I was in pretty bad shape,” she says. “I’m convinced it was the environment and the team that helped me feel more like myself again. The joy of meeting and interacting with everyone overshadowed any pain I felt.”
Throughout her three-month stay, Meredith’s care plan was coordinated by her Clinical Care Manager, Bridget Myers, a clinically trained social worker, and a “superhero” to Meredith’s family. Bridget determined Meredith’s family needed financial assistance to help them meet the financial challenges that arose from her injury.
These vital funds helped Meredith’s family cover the cost of critical items including a wheelchair ramp, a fully renovated wheelchair-accessible bathroom, and six months of catheter supplies—all necessities not covered by her insurance.
The Project EQL (Equipment for Quality of Life) Fund at the Craig Foundation, which ensures every inpatient has access to the vital adaptive equipment they need, purchased Meredith a manual wheelchair to supplement her power chair.
“My feeling of independence from being in that manual chair was life-changing,” says Meredith.
Through Craig’s partnership with the Falling Forward Foundation, Meredith was able to participate in additional sessions of intensive outpatient physical and occupational therapy focused on improving her neurologic recovery. As a result, she is now able to complete most of her activities of daily living independently and can stand regularly with a walker! “Everything about the therapy was invaluable,” Meredith says. “The potential of recovery didn’t become clear until I started working in this program.”
Meredith also shared her story of recovery with the Falling Forward Foundation.
She is grateful for the donors who support these programs that have supported her in her recovery.
“No one is prepared for this, and this is an expensive situation, she says. “Without contributions, I wouldn’t have the tools to feel independent.”