Cumberland Times-News

Local News

August 3, 2011

Mt. Savage teen to return home after spinal injury

— MOUNT SAVAGE — Mikaela Deneen, 14, of Mount Savage, who suffered a tragic spinal cord injury in May, will return home Friday after a two-month and two-week stay at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.  

“Mikaela has done really well. She started off with the inability to move her legs. Her strength and balance has progressed and she is now walking with assistance of crutches,” said Lauren Edwards physical therapist at Kennedy Krieger. “She is incredibly motivated. She has worked hard on her goals to get where she is now. She still has some things to overcome in the future.”

In May, Deneen was visiting her aunt and uncle and went outside to get on the swing-set. Due to heavy rain, the posts of the swing-set worked their way out of the ground and the entire structure fell on top of her.

“She knew immediately that something was wrong when she could not move her legs. She was rushed to Johns Hopkins for emergency surgery and the prognosis for recovery was uncertain,” said  Jennifer Burke, communications coordinator for the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “She was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to move her legs.”

Six days later, she was transferred to the Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit at Kennedy Krieger. The institute is home to the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, one of the most innovative programs of its kind in the country, according to Burke.

During Deneen’s stay at the institute, she spent at least three hours a day doing intensive therapy sessions. Therapy sessions included electrical stimulation, a device that uses electricity to stimulate the muscles to contract and therefore strengthens them. The E Stim is used several times a day on different muscles, according to Edwards. Therapy also included a Functional Electric Simulation bike, which stimulates multiple muscles at a time.

“The bike helps provide input to the nervous system and helps with strength and endurance,” said Edwards.

Deneen and her mom, Carrie Witt, are eager to come home. Upon returning home, Deneen will begin her freshman year at Mountain Ridge High School.

“This summer has brought challenges that the Deneen family could never have imagined, but Mikaela continues to stay positive about her recovery and hopeful that she won’t be treated differently when using her wheelchair,” said Burke.

After Deneen graduates, she plans on attending Pennsylvania State University.

“I always wanted to be in the medical field. After being here (Kennedy Krieger) I de-cided I wanted to be a physical therapist and help people like me,” said Deneen.

While at the hospital, Edwards worked with multiple members of Deneen’s family to learn what they could do to help Deneen continue to strengthen and progress. Edwards showed the family how to do the exercises, showed them where to place the E stim and gave them safety tips.

“The home rehab program is pretty comprehensive,” said Edwards.

Once Deneen returns home, she will meet with a physical therapist at Progressive Physical Therapy. At home, Deneen will participate in aqua therapy using friends’ and families’ swimming pools. Witt hopes to purchase an FES bike for Deneen.

“Mikaela is extremely motivated.  As she continues to work towards her goal I can’t wait to hear what work she is able to accomplish in the future,” said Edwards.

After learning of Deneen’s accident, Allegany County Teachers Federal Credit Un-ion began collecting donations. Donations can be sent by visiting the website or by calling the credit union at 301-729-8015.

“The donations helped a lot with medical expenses as well as traveling expenses from Cumberland to Baltimore,” said Witt.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at

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