Disability can unexpectedly happen to anyone. A few years ago, healthy 16-year-old Shelby Swanson woke to her alarm clock like any other morning.

Except this particular morning, to her incredible shock, she was unable to move the entire left side of her body.

An MRI would reveal bleeding in her brain from a cavernous malformation – a cluster of abnormal, dilated vessels in the brain. Shelby had experienced a traumatic injury. After being medically stabilized at the hospital and following months of in-patient rehabilitation, she was discharged home for intensive community rehabilitation with the BC Centre for Ability.

It was the beginning of a long and courageous journey: one that would take Shelby from losing the capacity of her left side of the body – and thereby losing hope of playing music again or simply enjoying the life of a teenager – to making a tremendous and inspirational recovery.

Working with BCCFA therapists, Shelby took charge of her rehabilitation. From the first achievement of learning to curl her fingers again to moving her left hand and arm, and then progressing from a wheelchair to a crutch, and eventually unassisted walking, Shelby fought for and was supported to regain her independence.

Shelby recently finished high school with a full course load. Although the fine finger movements required for clarinet playing are no longer accessible, Shelby has learned to play the piano. Recently, she was accepted into a college music program and is also involved in a community music group that travels the province twice a month.

The crisis turned Shelby’s life upside down, but she didn’t let it defeat her. “It gave me so much faith to believe that everything happens for a reason and taught me to have the courage to accept and learn from it.”


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