The Power of School Choice: Supporting Kendall After a Spinal Cord Stroke

In April 2020, when Florida Virtual School (FLVS) student Kendall T. was only 12 years old, she felt a sharp pain in her back. As the pain increased, she asked her mom, Misty, to look at her back. What she found was a huge bruise, which was odd because Kendall hadn’t done any activities that day that would have caused it. Then, a few minutes later, her feet started to tingle. At that point, Misty decided it was time to go to the emergency room, and by the time they got there 20 minutes later, Kendall couldn’t stand. 

After hours of CAT scans and blood tests, the ER doctors told them that everything looked normal and that they should go home. But Kendall still couldn’t stand, so Misty advocated for her daughter and asked that they move to the local children’s hospital. After waiting for nine hours, she was finally moved to the children’s hospital where the doctors did a MRI and realized what had happened: Kendall had suffered from a spinal cord stroke

Spinal strokes are a rare condition and are less common than strokes that affect the brain. In fact, they only account for 1.25% of all strokes according to the Brain and Spine Foundation. They are also even less common in children.  

The bruise on Kendall’s back was from a blood clot that disrupted the blood supply to her spine, causing damage to tissues and blocking messages, or nerve impulses, traveling along the spinal cord. Due to the damage, Kendall’s body was paralyzed from her belly button down to her feet.  

The Road to Recovery 

Kendall during physical therapy in Texas

The recovery and treatment process for spinal cord injuries varies for each patient, but one thing is certain: it takes continuous effort and investment. When Kendall first started her recovery process, her mentor told her, “Spinal cord injuries are measured in centimeters not inches,” meaning that recovery is possible, but it’s best to measure success in smaller goals because it can take years to get to the ultimate goal of walking again. 

At the beginning, recovery for Kendall included in-patient rehabilitation for two months at a center in Chicago, followed by physical therapy for five days a week for a total of 15 hours a week. Now, she goes to physical therapy three days a week for seven hours total with at least one doctor’s appointment per week as well.  

By staying dedicated to her physical therapy, Kendall has made a lot of progress. She can now move her legs more and is seeing activation in her hamstrings and quads. She can also move her toes, which is a big deal because it shows that the neural pathways are healing!  

Despite there being difficult times throughout her journey, the inspiration and support from her community, family, faith, and FLVS, have helped her remain positive and reach her goals.  

Online Learning Provides Flexibility and Support 

In 2020, Kendall had already made the switch to online learning due to the pandemic with FlexPoint Virtual School, our Kindergarten-12th grade school for students outside of Florida because she was living in Illinois. Luckily, working online gave her the flexibility to be in a full-time rehabilitation center, with teachers working with her one-on-one to support her schedule and needs. 

Then, in January 2021, her family decided to make the move to Florida for a couple of different reasons. One was to move to a place that had warmer weather because of the difficulties in moving a wheelchair through snow and ice, and the other was that one of the best centers for neuro-based physical therapy is in Orlando, FL. Once they made the move, Kendall made the choice to transfer to FLVS Flex.  

Kendall baking a dessert with the FLVS Cooking Club!

“Without FLVS, there is no way I could have kept up with my schoolwork or assignments,” said Kendall. “I can do my courses in the evening after physical therapy, and if I run out of time, I communicate with my teachers, and they help me prioritize and work around my schedule.”  

Speaking of FLVS teachers, Kendall and Misty were in awe of the support they received when they first joined. “I think a lot of people think that when you move to online learning there will be a disconnect and that you can’t have relationships with your teachers, but we’ve found the opposite,” said Misty.  

Plus, they love the rigor of FLVS courses and how user-friendly the learning management system is so that they can easily navigate and find the resources and information they need to be successful. 

“The quality of schooling is better than what we were paying for Kendall’s in-person private school in Illinois, which puts my mind at ease because I know she is growing through her studies,” said Misty.  

The Path Forward 

When asked how she continues to find strength and positivity through this challenging season of life, Kendall, now in tenth grade, pointed toward her faith, as well as the community she has built through her physical therapy, support groups, and FLVS.  

But it’s also because of her long-term goals, which include going to college and majoring in psychology to one day become either a child life specialist or recreational therapist at a children’s hospital. “I know what it’s like to be a patient, and I want to help children like me. So that they know they are not alone, and can get through anything,” said Kendall. 

Kendall and her trainers from therapy who came to support her when she played the role of Mrs. Mayor in Seussical the Musical

Plus, in her free time, she creates bracelets, paintings, and art on her Etsy page to raise money and fundraise so that her family can one day have an adaptable vehicle.  

When asked what advice she would give to students who may be going through a difficult time, Kendall said, “Keep going and find the balance between school and your mental and physical well-being. Your value shouldn’t only be tied to your grades. Be kind to yourself and remember that your body and mind are trying to heal.”  

If you’re interested in supporting Kendall and her family throughout their journey, please visit their GoFundMe page.  

Hailey FitchHailey Fitch is a Communications Manager for FLVS and FlexPoint, dedicated to telling the stories of our students, families, and the schools and districts we work with to showcase the positive impact of online learning. When she isn't busy writing, you can find her obsessing over superheroes and planning her next travel adventure.

13 comments on “The Power of School Choice: Supporting Kendall After a Spinal Cord Stroke

  1. henley

    wow that the most amazing thing in the world that she was able to get better but it’s also so sad I cried twice.

  2. Sharon Baldanza (Nana)

    So proud of you, Kendall! Our grandson, Joe, has been with FLVS Flex since 2018. He has cerebral palsy and going virtual was the best thing that he ever did because, as you, it has allowed him the time for physical therapy as well as travel for doctor visits and surgeries. You are truly an inspiration! Joe is a senior with FLVS and is focused on graduating this May and hopes to go on to college. FLVS has given him a great base and super teachers. God bless you and continue the good work that you are doing! We commend you on this great journey that you are on! Kudos to you dear girl!


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