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Written by: Chance Forman
Meet Samantha Burns. In 2015 she was just your average 20 year old who lived an active lifestyle in Shreveport, Louisiana. A typical day started at 5am when Samantha, known by her friends as JoJo, worked as a nanny and ended at 5pm when she got off of her job as a dental assistant.
During her down time, she would go to the gym or take her dog for a run around the neighborhood. Until one day she felt sick and went to the doctor to find out why.
Previously diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, doctors were fearful that it may have ruptured or worse turned into meningitis. A spinal tap was performed and the results were good. However, 4 days after the spinal tap, the needle site was still leaking spinal fluid. A routine blood patch turned into a devastating spinal cord injury when blood leaked into the spinal nerves causing severe inflammation and a spinal cyst. Doctors diagnosed her as having Cauda Equine Syndrome and from this point on she would be paralyzed from the waist down.
Despite losing her ability to walk, JoJo remains happy and has a positive outlook on life. She has learned through this experience to truly love herself and when she looks in the mirror all she sees is beauty and love! Speaking with Jojo inspired me to find the beauty in my own life. She gives me hope that Lillian can grow up and have such a positive outlook on life. Here is her story.
What keeps you smiling and positive, instead of the alternative?
“If you’re negative about a situation it only makes it harder. I mean, I’m not saying I don’t have meltdowns because trust me! I do. But in those moments I just have to realize it’s all going to be okay.
I can’t tell you what keeps me smiling. I’ve ALWAYS had a smile on my face. Even in pain, I’ll smile. Sometimes the doctors will think I’m lying because I’m smiling even though I’m crying. Haha. I care so much for others and I know that if someone sees ME smiling, even in a wheel chair, then maybe they will smile back and have a better day. My goal is to help others. That’s ALL I want. I want my story to be heard!”
What is the one obstacle you are trying to overcome right now to get you that much closer to walking?
Honestly, my endurance and the pain are the hardest things for me to over come. Since I’m not that strong anymore, I get tired very very fast which makes me have to stop. But the pain in my back is excruciating. That’s been nonstop since the day of the blood patch. It’s miserable. No one can even touch my back without making me flinch.Those are truly the two most important things I have to overcome.
What types of therapies do you do during your rehabilatiation therapy?
I’ve used bioness technology therapy for about a year I’d say. Bioness is where they take electrodes that shock my muscles which makes them move. I haven’t used them for the last two weeks because my leg function has gotten really really good. I’ve started being able to pick up my feet, which is a big deal! That’s the main thing we were using bioness for, because my foot drop is severe. I had NO idea it would help so much. It fires your muscles. It’s crazy to watch.
Is there anything you are fundraising for or you would like to bring attention to?
“Right now I don’t have anything I need, my insurance is really really good so it has helped ALOT when getting everything I’ve needed.
I’m trying so hard to inspire others. That’s all I want! Beside’s being able to walk again (haha) but it’ll happen!
These injuries need to be heard about! So many people misunderstand them. Which I totally get. I would love to help educate others about SCI.”
Who is your inspiration?
My nana (my mom’s mom) lost her home in the flood that happened last year. I wanted to be there for her, so my mom carried me on her back up and down and all around the house so that I could try to help and support. Haha I just love this picture. It shows how truly amazing she is. AND SHE HAS A TERRIBLE BACK! She’s who I get my strength from.
To learn more and support JoJo on her journey, follow her at:
or on Instagram @samanthajoannburns