Geneva Brier-Daniels developed transverse myelitis following a COVID-19 infection
Geneva Brier-Daniels and dozens of other spinal cord injury patients reunited with their rehabilitation team recently at an annual gathering inside Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center. Brier-Daniels, a U.S. Navy veteran and mom of three young kids, walked into the event on her own – something she wasn’t sure would be possible one year ago.
“I’m a ‘go, go, go’ type person. [I’m] up before the kids, go to sleep way after, always juggling a couple side jobs. It halted my life dramatically,” Brier-Daniels said about her diagnosis. The 37-year-old woke up paralyzed in September of 2021 after initially experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. She was later diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare condition that can be caused by a virus, resulting in inflammation of the spinal cord.
“The reasons we develop it are basically unknown,” said Dr. Barinder Mahal, a physician with the Orlando Health Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Institute. “The suspected cause in her case was COVID so we didn’t have a lot of data to see how patients would do over time.”
Following her paralysis, Brier-Daniels was admitted to the Orlando Health ORMC Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation. The program is recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.
“Geneva would ask me every day, ‘Crissy, am I going to walk again,’” said Orlando Health physical therapy clinical specialist Crissy Voigtmann, PT, DPT, NCS. “I’m always pushing and hoping for the best. She had all the indications that she would start walking again but we didn’t know what that would look like.”
Brier-Daniels, whose children are 7, 5 and 2, has continued to work with the Orlando Health physical therapy team over the past year as an outpatient. “This is hard but thankfully they know what they’re doing. Every week there’s something new. I’m progressing in some way. This is not the end for me by any means. I have the cane, which I’m grateful for, but I’m hoping to return to my old self soon,” Brier-Daniels said.
Orlando Health is continuing to expand its rehabilitation services with the development of a new, freestanding, 53-bed rehabilitation institute that will be located on the campus of Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital.