During the trip from Washington, D.C. to her parents’ house in New York, Kim Payne had no reason to suspect that the trip would be out of the ordinary. On such a balmy November day, no one would expect to hit a patch of black ice on an otherwise clear stretch of road. But she did – causing her to careen over to the opposite side. Had it not been for the car in the oncoming lane, she might have made it to her parents’ house on time for dinner.
Instead, she woke up three weeks too late – in a hospital bed in an unfamiliar Pennsylvania city. Severe brain trauma sustained during the accident caused a coma that left her incapacitated for three weeks. Her injuries also included a carotid artery dissection, damage to the ligament that attaches the skull to the spine, paralyzed vocal cords and a broken pelvis. The accident rendered her utterly immobile and unable to communicate except by blinking.
Following weeks in an acute-care hospital to stabilize her condition and while still on a ventilator to breathe, she was transferred to the Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital  for medically fragile patients.There, during the next few weeks the hard work of recovery began in earnest.
Initially, upon reading the gruesome medical report, the staff prepared itself for her arrival with guarded expectations. However, upon meeting Kim, they quickly realized that she was a determined young woman who would power through the obstacles in her way.
“She blew me away,” says Teresa Rex, Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital therapy manager. “I remember coming out of the room and saying I think she is going to do better than anyone hoped.”
An interdisciplinary approach to complex medical issues, pulmonary and physical rehabilitation helped Kim to recover. Respiratory therapists inserted a speaking valve, during her ventilator weaning  process, to enhance communication while the speech therapists worked with her so she could learn to talk again. Physical and occupational therapists assisted Kim to strengthen her arms and legs. After several weeks at Specialty Hospital, she was successfully weaned from the ventilator and her tracheostomy tube was removed. She was soon ready to move on to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital , where she would continue to build strength before her discharge six weeks later.
While home recovering after the accident, Kim studied for her second bar exam and passed. She now practices law in New York. Because of her remarkable determination and the aid she received at Good Shepherd, Kim has not only gotten her life back on track, but has succeeded in moving forward. For patients faced with devastating diagnoses, she urges them to keep pushing through. “You can get back to where you want to be and back to where you were, if you just keep moving,” says Kim. Good Shepherd was happy to help her start moving again.