Student with traumatic brain injury faces recovery with positivity

TBI Patient Christy Moore with UAB care team

With help from her care team at UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center, Christy Moore is recovering from a traumatic brain injury caused by a gunshot wound. Despite it turning her life upside down, this senior at Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., approaches her recovery with a positive attitude.

On New Year’s Eve 2022, Christy was attending a friend’s birthday party at a city park when a dispute between other visitors led to gunfire. A bullet struck her in the head, causing traumatic brain injury (TBI). Her mother, Latorya Moore, said it was a life-altering moment.

“Christy was an innocent bystander with no idea that the night would change things so drastically,” Latorya said. “In a single second, my daughter went from being an honor student, working a job, driving, and doing all the things teenagers do to fighting for her life in intensive care and now recovering in a wheelchair.”

A challenging recovery

TBI refers to damage to the brain caused by an external physical force, and it’s often seen with car wrecks, falls, work or sports-related accidents, and gunshots. A TBI can cause a wide range of physical and mental effects, including reducing basic cognitive (thinking) skills and affecting the person’s ability to concentrate and remember new information. Some people who lose the ability to effectively walk or use their hands are able to regain those functions within 6-12 months of the injury. Depending on the severity, however, a TBI may prevent a return to independent living. In the long term, the TBI may reduce coordination or cause physical weakness and balance problems.

Robert Brunner, M.D., medical director of the Spain Rehabilitation Center (SRC) inpatient hospital, describes Christy’s TBI as “very difficult.”

“Christy has had a lot to recover from,” Dr. Brunner said. “We she arrived at SRC, she was not able to sit on the side of the bed. Her left arm had no function. Overall her body was extremely weak and had little coordination, and her rehabilitation now is still at wheelchair level. She could follow directions when she began rehab, which was a big advantage. Christy is one of those patients who still had memory of physical movement, and she could recall how to move her limbs and fingers, enabling her to follow instructions from the rehab team. She is faced with a number of physical impairments, and recovery through continued and various types of rehab calls for a lot of motivation. Fortunately, Christy has plenty of that.”

Dr. Brunner is referring to her determination and positive outlook. “From the beginning, Christy’s attitude has been remarkable,” he said. “With our therapies for TBI, we try to keep patients engaged with what can often be tedious and boring exercises after a while. There’s also an emotional struggle; it’s common for patients to get depressed after severe trauma to their body, abilities, and lifestyle. We help them focus on the process for now and follow progress in small steps. Christy, however, has a natural ability to look forward. She tends to look at her progress, not the loss or the negatives. She is back in high school, and she says her goal is to be on that stage to receive her diploma with the class of 2024. She plans to attend UAB this fall. That positive outlook will serve her well.”

Christy Moore

Looking ahead with big goals

Christy does indeed have a goal-focused, positive view of her future, but her recovery isn’t without challenges. She sometimes struggles to find her place while reading, and she can forget where she left things like her phone or pen. Unless it was an extended conversation, she may not remember what was said to her. And she still requires help getting in and out of her wheelchair. But none of these challenges has prevented her from making the Central High Honor Roll and its Principal’s List.

Christy says her difficulties may affect how she carries out her plans, but they won’t change her goals – including studying physical therapy at UAB, where she was accepted recently.

“I will go to UAB this fall, so that’s my next goal, along with continuing rehab,” she said. “I have short-term memory problems, and I am still working on getting physically stronger. But I think about how that first day at Spain Rehab was so different from when I left. I was happy to see what I could do on my own that was impossible when I arrived. This summer, I would like to find a role mentoring teens or other young people. I have a story to tell about what I have been through and the person I am today because of that. Maybe I can share that and help young people with whatever they need as inspiration, or just help them see that you can overcome whatever you might be facing.”

UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center is home to a nationally designated Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems program that recognizes UAB’s outstanding TBI care, including emergency medical services, acute care in the hospital, and rehabilitation. The program also is a major participant in TBI research. Click here to learn more.

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