Watch CBS News

Paralyzed Woman Now Helping Injured Patients At Same Place She Received Treatment

(CBS) -- Imagine being a carefree teenager: smart, athletic, friendly, when all of a sudden you are paralyzed from the waist down after a freak skiing accident.

That happened to Allison Kessler. But she turned the darkest moment of her alive into something bright and she's now helping injured patients at the same place she received her treatment.

Allison Kessler works at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. As a third year physiatry resident, or rehab doctor, she is uniquely qualified for this job.

After being paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident in 2001, Allison did her rehab at RIC.

"I really wanted to go home for my sixteenth birthday, really did not want to be in the hospital, so they let me go two days before my sixteenth birthday," Allison said.

Amazingly, Allison quickly returned to her east coast boarding school, later went to Harvard, and came back to Chicago to attend Northwestern Medical School. It was then that she met Ben Vear at the rowing club on a day she'd forgotten her jacket.

Ben says he gave her his jacket but, "she doesn't remember this though at all."

Allison and Ben dated all the while she was at med school and when it came time for her residency, Allison headed back to RIC.

"I love working there, I love the patients that I get to work with, and you know being able to be back in the place that that helped me and being able to be that person to maybe help someone else to what hey want to do is incredibly fulfilling," she said.

Patients like Patrick Severin who also uses a wheelchair.

"She knows a lot of the stuff that we go through on a daily basis, and she's able to understand more about the, you know, paralysis and the day to day issues for someone in a wheelchair has to deal with or live with," said Severin.

One of her supervisors at RIC is Dr. David Chen, who remembers her as a patient all of those years ago.

"She really exemplifies being a professional not only with her colleagues, but with the patients and families that she communicates and that she works with," said Dr. Chen.

As for Ben and Allison, it worked out. They were married August 30 and ben says he never spends much time thinking about what she can't do.

"To the point that we'll pull into the garage and I'll turn the car off because I'm tired," Ben said.

"No he'll get out and start walking away and I'm like 'hello, chair's in the trunk,'" Allison said.

Allison has one more year on her residency before deciding where she will practice for the long-term.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.