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Colton woman learns to walk again

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If she has help, RiverLedge rehabilitation patient Connie C. Bates can walk.

That might not seem like a major accomplishment, but to her, it’s an odds-defying feat. Less than a year ago, doctors gave her no chance of ever walking again.

On an uneventful August day, Mrs. Bates decided to run a few errands. Driving though an intersection in Hopkinton, her brakes failed.

Mrs. Bates’s car flipped over. She broke her back in three places, broke her neck in two places and sustained a head injury.

The jaws of life were used to extract the 63-year-old Colton resident from her vehicle. She was later airlifted from Canton-Potsdam Hospital to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., where she underwent three surgeries.

“The doctor told me that I was paralyzed from the neck down and would never be able to walk or take care of myself again,” Mrs. Bates said.

“At first, I wanted to die and I prayed to die. But I kept waking up every day. I guess I haven’t accomplished what I was here to do. So I decided to pull up my boots and get busy. I did not give up hope and started moving my arms and legs a little bit while in Burlington.”

After a month of treatment at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Mrs. Bates in January began her inpatient services at the United Helpers-operated RiverLedge Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Ogdensburg. She is steadily making progress.

“That is her drive,” RiverLedge social worker Jill Youngs said. “It’s what she wants. So as long as someone is willing to participate, we are willing to help them as much as we can.”

Physical Therapist Assistant Tammy L. Rupert has been working with Mrs. Bates during her therapy sessions.

“Connie truly is an amazing person and has the motivation to regain as much function as possible,” she said. “The amount of strength and will it takes to come as far as she has is tremendous. We are so glad we have had the opportunity to assist Connie with her therapy.”

Mrs. Bates, a mother of two, grandmother of two, stepgrandmother of four and great-stepgrandmother to one, says her family motivates her to get better.

“I didn’t want to be a burden to my children, and I didn’t want my grandchildren to remember me this way,” she said.

Through determination and perseverance, Mrs. Bates can walk 14 feet with assistance.

“I’ll probably have a walker for the rest of my life, but I can live with a walker,” Mrs. Bates said. “I hope at some point in the near future to go to an assisted living facility.

“I am looking forward to the day that I will be able to walk up to that doctor in Burlington who told me I would never walk again and show him that he was wrong.”

Mrs. Bates said she has tried to stay positive through the whole experience, and hopes she can inspire others with her story.

“I guess if you have faith to begin with and family and friends who will stand behind you, that’s all you need for inspiration,” she said. “You have to make up your mind what you want and what you can do, and go do it.”

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