Spinal cord injury victim leaves rehab center after six-year stay
Next Monday will be huge for Donna Brawner.
Brawner is 24 and paralyzed from the waist down. She’ll be leaving Indian Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center in Corydon after a six-year residency and moving to a special home for people with disabilities near Ramsey.
Last Friday, the staff and residents of Indian Creek gave Donna a going-away party that included musical entertainment by ‘Hank Williams Sr’ (Otis Berry of Leavenworth). Although Donna has difficulty speaking and can’t see out of her left eye, she was clearly ecstatic. Several residents in the dining hall sang along with Berry as he sang many Williams hits, like ‘Hey, Good Lookin’.’
Donna generally has a sunny, outgoing personality, and she has become special to many people who work at Indian Creek, said Donna Richard, the activities director at Indian Creek. Donna has a great spirit, big dreams, and never gave up, said Richard. She has overcome tremendous physical and mental obstacles.
Donna was injured severely in a single car accident near Marengo six years ago on her way to work in New Albany. Her car hit a culvert, flipped, and Donna was ejected. She suffered a broken neck, her back was broken in several places, and she was left paralyzed from the waist down. She cannot see out of her left eye because of the head trauma. She suffered brain damage, liver damage, and was in a coma for about eight months. Donna was engaged and 7-1/2 months pregnant at the time. A baby girl was born by Caesarean section but died.
Otis Berry remembered seeing Donna when she first came to the nursing home. She was bedfast and unable to move. To see her all dressed up and enjoying the attention of the going-away party was ‘wonderful,’ the entertainer said.
If all goes according to plan, Donna will be transferred next week to a Volunteers of America-managed home in the Ramsey area, the second one like it in Indiana, said house manager Dana Gerdon of Sellersburg. Donna and another client who is ambulatory and scheduled to arrive in December or January will get around-the clock care by a team of six volunteers.
Gerdon said Donna’s progress will be assessed carefully for six to nine months and then a judgment will be made as to whether she will start vocational therapy a few hours a week. It is expected that she will be able to get around in a van and her wheelchair, perhaps even do some shopping. Richard said she expects Donna to make visible progress once she gets out into the community. For years, she has been living with elderly people, and Richard thinks the change will be good for Donna.
Richard said Donna’s mother, Jalaine (Angie) Anderson of New Salisbury, and her two sisters and brother, Samantha, Candy and David, have been a great support group, along with the staffers at Indian Creek, some of whom went to school with Donna at North Harrison High School.
‘She’s not mentally handicapped,’ said Gerdon. ‘She’s gonna show a lot. She’s got a lot of potential. She’s come so far.
‘She has a dream that she wants to walk one day.’
The staff gave Donna a large sheet cake trimmed in blue, magenta and purple that said, ‘Good luck, Donna. We’ll all miss you.’