Spinal cord injury won't slow this young ballerina

Spinal cord injury won't slow this young ballerina

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

The small dance classroom is filled with about a dozen eager children. And, right out of the gate, it's pretty obvious Jenna Proctor is no wallflower. Watching her preschooler, wearing a hot pink tutu, grey sneakers and ankle braces, Erin Proctor says her Jenna told her, "I'm a rock star, Momma!" Proctor says, "Jenna is one of the most strong-willed, outspoken 4-year olds you've ever met in your life!" And she's having the time of her life.

And this dance class, part of the rehabilitation program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is a perfect fit for Jenna.

Katie Chance, a speech pathologist who helps lead the class, says she's watched Jenna grow in confidence since she joined the dance rehab program last summer. She says, "When she first came she was a little nervous, and just didn't know exactly what to do, but she was so excited."

This is a big deal, because Jenna has been through a lot. Her journey began when she was just eight-months old. Describing that day, Erin Proctor says, "My baby was perfectly normal that morning."

Proctor says Jenna, who'd just begun to crawl the week before, fell out of a bed at her Gordon County daycare. At first, her mom says, the accident didn't seem like a big deal. She says, "They gave her a pacifier, patted her and she calmed down. She took a nap, and then they called me afterwards because something wasn't right." Jenna had a glazed expression in her eyes, Proctor says, "Kind of like a stroke victim." They rushed her to the hospital, and the news was devastating.

Scans showed Jenna had suffered a spinal cord injury. Rushed by ambulance to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, she spent three month in the pediatric intensive care unit. Erin says, "It was touch-and-go. I watched them revive her 3 times."

Who knew that a spinal cord injury up so high affected your breathing. It affected you pupils. It affected what moved, what didn't move, I didn't know any of that. I knew nothing about injuries like that."

For a long time, the Proctors weren't sure Jenna would ever walk, much less dance. But, after years of hard work in Children's rehab program, here she is - practicing her moves Katie Chance. Chance says, "I think for her, it's more about the confidence, she has so much confidence. So much life to her."

During the class, a real-life ballerina from the Atlanta Ballet dropped by to give the kids some pointers – and a pair of their own ballet shoes. Jenna Proctor smiled, following the dancer's lead, knowing she, too, has the heart of a dancer.

The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Dance Rehab Classes are held weekly at the Sandy Plains facility. The charge is $115 for six sessions. For more information about the program, visit http://www.choa.org/rehabclasses.

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