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Meet Sami: A Craig Story

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Hi, I'm Sami.

I had a BIG goal when I came to Craig: to ride my horse, Dunny, again.

Growing up in southern Missouri, rodeo and riding competitions were a big part of my life. But when I got in a car accident on my way to work, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to walk – let alone ride – again.

While I was in the ICU battling my injuries, my family had to choose a place for my rehabilitation. We had heard some success stories from Craig before, but what really convinced us was the TRAC (Teen Rehab at Craig) program, unique compared to other rehab centers.

TRAC focuses on unique issues teens experience while in rehabilitation and creates a safe community to learn, grow and progress. We knew that I would grow more physically and personally if I came to Craig.

The first few weeks at Craig are a blur. My initial therapy sessions were challenging. I had to figure out how to get dressed and worked hard to sit up and move my legs. I was in pain and discouraged.

When I was ready, Danielle, a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and TRAC lead staff, introduced herself. She told me, in addition to the therapies all patients do, I would be part of a specialized group providing education, Therapeutic Recreation outings, the School Program and other support focused on the needs of teens. I couldn’t wait to get started!

But, just as I was getting acclimated to Craig and being in a power wheelchair (it felt like freedom to move around the hospital!), Dr. Berliner recommended I have surgery to fuse my thoracic spine. He told us without the surgery, my chance of being stable enough to ride my horse was slim. While this surgery was successful, I was admitted to Swedish Hospital next door to address complications related to a leg injury I sustained in the car accident.

A few moments stand out to me. Because I love horses, Danielle ordered a ceramic horse for me to paint. That horse stayed in my hospital room and was a constant source of encouragement. I knew I was not alone and would ride again one day.

They also brought over virtual reality goggles. These goggles transported me to places outside my hospital room. Guided meditations got me through some difficult procedures. Various virtual reality modules helped me gain movement by using foot pedals on games. I participated in rehabilitation at Craig, even when I wasn’t at Craig!

When I returned to Craig at the end of September, I was ready to get back to work. With the help of physical and occupational therapies, I transitioned from a power wheelchair to a manual wheelchair. Each breakthrough was scary and exciting and gave me hope.

I started going to education classes with other TRAC participants. We talked about things like dating after our injuries, health issues and the transition back home. We played games, talked, laughed and connected. We went on TRAC outings and enjoyed activities together—all while working on therapeutic goals. I like the program because I can talk to my peers and they understand exactly what I’m going through. My mom and dad were also able to connect with other TRAC parents.

As a parent, TRAC was critical for me, too! In the first weeks while we were at Craig, there was a teen and parent cookout. I instantly connected with the other parents and knew I would never be alone while at Craig. I was comforted knowing there were people going through the same thing. I gained a support group and lifelong friends through this experience. TRAC was invaluable for both Sami and our family!

Charity Bayless, Sami’s mom

Before my accident, I had been concurrently enrolled in high school and an associate’s degree program. I didn’t want to get behind, so Laura and Cory in Craig’s School Program worked with me to earn my GED. They even threw me a graduation party!

Because I live in a rural community, it was especially important for me to be able to get back to driving when I returned home. Unfortunately, I was terrified about being in a car again. Dr. Ali and my physical therapist, Barb, were critical in helping me work through my fears. They helped me first sit in the stationary car in the transfer training lab. After I was comfortable, I progressed into Craig’s Adaptive Driving program, and was able to get back behind the wheel.

In my final weeks at Craig, I transitioned from a walker to a cane, and could stand for lengths of time. I walked out of Craig in December. I cried, celebrating my progress but knowing my biggest challenge waited for me at home: would I be able to ride my horse Dunny?

I entered a barrel racing competition. I was nervous, but knew that I had learned a lot at Craig and had the support of my family. We taught Dunny to lay down. I mounted her. She stood up. I was riding!

I walked the barrel race pattern, using my core muscles to stabilize myself because I didn’t have strength in my legs. The cheer of the crowd echoed what I felt in my soul. It felt amazing and I knew I could do it again, thanks to Craig!


Without the support of donors like you who make TRAC and other programs at Craig possible, I would not be able to stand, walk, pursue my education, drive and ride my horse.

Your donation is critical in helping patients who are rehabilitating at Craig. You lift a financial burden off patients and families as many of these programs are not covered by insurance.

When you donate today, your donation will be matched, dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000 by an anonymous donor.

Your support means the world to me and other Craig patients and I hope you choose to double your donation today!

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