Arienne's story

Spinal cord injury patient success story

Horse racing is a family tradition for 44-year old Arienne Cox. A mother of three and a grandmother of four, Arienne started riding horses at nine and eventually moved into equine training and racing herself, which has taken her all over the country.

In early September, Arienne was competing in a race when the horses in front of her, collided into another and fell.  When the horse got back up, Arienne’s horse collided into it at over 40 miles per hour. She was thrown 12 feet in the air and trampled by multiple horses when she landed. Arienne was taken by helicopter from the track to the University of Pittsburgh Hamot Medical Center in Erie, PA.

Upon arrival, she was intubated and underwent multiple scans to determine the severity of her injuries. Arienne had suffered several major trauma injuries, including both a spinal cord injury and a brain injury. The day after the accident, Arienne underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure, a type of neck surgery that involves removing a damaged disc to relieve spinal cord pressure, then replacing the disc with a bone graft or implant in order to provide stability and strength and alleviate corresponding pain, weakness, numbness and tingling.

Once Arienne was stabilized, she was ready to continue her recovery.  She elected to return home to Florida and chose UF Health Rehab Hospital as the next step in her journey.

Upon admission, Arienne was utilizing a feeding tube for nutrition and needed moderate to maximum assistance for all mobility and personal care. Her goal upon arrival was to walk out of the hospital at discharge on her own. She also wanted to eventually get back to the life she was living before the accident and was not intimated by the work that was ahead of her to get there. “You have to make that goal for yourself, or you’ll never get there,” Arienne said.

Arienne stated that while her therapy sessions were challenging, they all were beneficial in helping her work toward her goals. Physical therapists worked with Arienne on how to safely transfer from laying to sitting to standing, eventually progressing to walking with the support of a walker and supervision of a therapist. They also worked to help her regain strength, flexibility and endurance by using a variety of equipment and exercises. Arienne’s physical therapist was inspired by her determination sharing, “Working with Arie was such a pleasure. She was so motivated, consistently asking for harder challenges and extra therapy to do on her own time. It was also professionally rewarding for me to constantly adapt my treatment plans as she rose to every challenge.”

In occupational therapy, Arienne particularly enjoyed utilizing the Armeo Spring Trainer, a mobile arm support with user-controlled interactive technology, to improve motor function in her arms and hands. Arienne loved that the technology, saying, “It forced me to really think about what I was doing while I was physically doing it.” Arienne also benefited from the Saebo, an orthotic device that helped the movement and range of motion in her arm and hand.

Speech therapists worked with Arienne on her swallowing, a skill that was particularly important to her as she loves to cook. A major turning point occurred when Arienne was able to swallow independently again.

Arienne’s significant other, Wayne, stayed by her side throughout her rehabilitation hospital journey. He assisted with her care and therapy and underwent training to help learn how to provide Arienne with assistance when returning home.

After 35 days at UF Health Rehab Hospital, Arienne made amazing strides in her recovery, requiring only supervision for her mobility and personal care as well as being able to walk with the assistance of a rolling walker.

Arienne was excited to get back to her farm of animals including her puppy, cat, and of course, the horses.  She plans to continue her recovery through outpatient therapy.

Upon discharge, Arienne said her time at UF Health Rehab Hospital was “wonderful,” adding “the therapists invested so much of themselves into my therapy and it really made a difference. I never felt like they were just there for a job, they were there to truly help me recover.”

She continued, “My accident and recovery taught me that I am stronger than I thought, because this took a lot more than I thought I had.”

Arienne encourages people who are going through rehabilitation to “keep a positive outlook and work hard towards your goals, you can accomplish them.”