Adjusting to a new normal

April 20, 2020

“Looking back, if we had gotten in earlier, there would be less damage,” Fowler said. “It’s hard because you want to be like ‘oh why didn’t I think of this, why didn’t I think of this’ and I think that’s probably one of the hardest things about being there and looking back. And it’s not our fault, but in our minds it’s like, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’”

After the two hour head to toe MRI scan, which involved a painful backboard, Fowler spent the next few hours struggling to sleep, listening to weird country music, when a neurosurgeon came in.

Still unaware of what was wrong, surgery was decided to be the best course of action and Fowler was rushed off to remove the unknown mass which was pushing on her spinal cord. The next day, Christmas Eve, she was once again brought into surgery to remove what was left of the mass, and the diagnosis was finally made. 

Fowler was diagnosed with staph infection (which is what the mass turned out to be), but the doctors have been unable to identify where it came from. One day she was fine, and the next — paralyzed. 

“We don’t really know where it came from, it’s a mystery. One day it was fine, then I just fell,” Fowler said.

And it’s not our fault, but in our minds it’s like, ‘why didn’t I think of that?”

— Sydney Fowler

The days began to run together after that. Twenty-one days went by while Fowler was paralyzed in the pediatric hospital. 

The next step was rehab. Atlanta was the best facility that had the rehab therapy Fowler needed, so they relocated to Georgia for the next few months for her inpatient rehab.

Jan. 7, 2019 marked the day outpatient rehab began. Fowler and her family lived in the Ronald McDonald house and Fowler spent her days adapting to her new reality. She learned how to sit up, roll over, do wheelies and ultimately regain as much strength as possible.

Next was robotics, where she learned how to move her toes, build her abs, balance and where she discovered her passion of waterskiing.

When August rolled around, it was time for Fowler to return to school as a freshman. She was not only returning to school for the first time after the incident, but she was also starting an entire new school at Wando.

“It’s been really good, I’ve made a bunch of friends,” Fowler said.  “It’s easier than I thought honestly, cause I was really nervous about how kids would react and I definitely do get stares and looks, but you just kinda learn to deal with that. I think when I see people stare at me I’m just like, ‘I probably would’ve stared at someone else before too’ like that’s just second nature. You’re interested, you want to know what happened to them — why are they in a wheelchair? I get it. So, just relating is helpful. They’re just curious.”

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