Vicky Eng, a mom and systems engineer from Marlton, always dreamed of riding horses, so when her 6-year-old daughter showed the same interest, she decided it was time they both learned.
Vicky enjoyed the lessons until a fall from a horse left her with traumatic and life-changing injuries. She was rushed to Cooper University Hospital where she was diagnosed with bleeding in the brain from damaged vessels, a ruptured aneurysm and rib fractures. She couldn’t think clearly, talk, move or sit by herself. She had a tracheostomy and a G-tube to breathe and get nutrition.
When Vicky’s medical condition stabilized, she was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (KIR) - Marlton for the next phase of her recovery. When deciding where to go, she took the recommendation of her team at Cooper University Hospital. “When I talked to Cooper, they said you guys are the best at rehab so I am glad I made it here,” she said.
Upon admission to KIR - Marlton, she couldn't speak, eat, respond to yes-or-no questions or follow basic one-step commands. Getting in and out of bed required a mechanical lift, and she lacked the strength to sit up in a regular wheelchair. Her arms and legs had minimal to no movement.
"I couldn’t communicate or think," Vicky recalled. "Once my brain woke up, I was shocked that my body wouldn’t listen to me—my left hand just did what it wanted and I couldn’t remember how to walk." However, she felt confident that she was in the right place to recover.
With the support of a physician-led team of therapists, Vicky embarked on a rigorous rehabilitation program. She expressed that her main goal was to reunite with her family. Her care team quickly put a treatment plan in place.
Her therapy included physical, occupational and speech therapies to help her regain her lost abilities.
Vicky’s physical therapy started with sitting at the edge of the bed and progressed slowly to sit-to-stand exercises and time spent standing between the parallel bars to strengthen her legs and core muscles. She enjoyed walking in the pool, which increased her endurance and balance for walking out of the water.
In occupational therapy, Vicky began by visually tracking targets and interacting with commonly used objects. With hard work, she advanced to actively participating in daily activities, including dressing and showering. One of her favorite activates was playing volleyball in the pool with her occupational therapist to develop upper body strength, coordination and standing balance.
Speech therapy was also integral in Vicky’s ability to eat and drink and communicate effectively by her discharge.
After two months of hard work, Vicky was capable of dressing herself and climbing a flight of stairs. Her cognitive function improved significantly and she was able to do tasks like pay bills over the phone.
As she prepared to leave KIR - Marlton, Vicky planned to continue with therapy at home and then KIR-Marlton outpatient therapy so that she could return to her normal routines. She looked forward to caring for her children and hoped to go back to work in the near future.
When asked if her future plans included returning to riding lessons, Vicky responded with enthusiasm, “My daughter is back on a horse, and I plan on getting back on a horse too!”