Rehabilitation center program helps injured reclaim activities

Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center program helps injured reclaim activities

Posted:
Before the crash, Caroline Owen was a student at Clemson University Before the crash, Caroline Owen was a student at Clemson University
She was in a coma for three months. She was in a coma for three months.
Her mother, Susan Owen, has devoted her life, full time, to making sure her daughter's needs are met. Her mother, Susan Owen, has devoted her life, full time, to making sure her daughter's needs are met.
The IRC's Adaptive Scuba Clinic is held once a year at UT. The IRC's Adaptive Scuba Clinic is held once a year at UT.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Caroline Owen is a 25-year-old who loves people and life in general. The vivacious young woman suffered terrible injuries in a car crash in 2006.

She was in a coma for three months and spent a lot of time afterward at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.

Before the crash, Caroline was a student at Clemson University and a member of its women's rowing team.

Life has since changed for Caroline and her family in a profound way.

Her mother, Susan Owen, has devoted her life, full time, to making sure her daughter's needs are met. They take each day at a time as they work to help Caroline achieve new goals that are compatible with what they call her "new normal."

At the time of the accident, the Owen family had no idea Caroline kept a quote book. Her brothers found it when they were sent to clean out her apartment near campus.

"We knew she liked quotes, but didn't know this was a project, well, wasn't a project, but a love of your life," her mother said. "There are quotes that will make you blush, quotes that will make you laugh out loud and then very deep, thought-provoking quotes."

One of Caroline's favorites is, "Life is not about surviving the storm, but learning to dance in the rain."

Today, Caroline is doing just that. With the support of her parents, she's taking part in Patricia Neal's Innovative Recreation Cooperative (IRC).

On a recent Saturday, Caroline renewed her love of the water by learning to scuba dive at the University of Tennessee's scuba clinic, as part of the IRC program.

"This allows people with challenges to get back into the stream of things, and recreation is the medium we use," explained IRC program coordinator Al Kaye.

Caroline's father, Dr. David Owen, says he's grown to expect the outpouring of optimism in programs like this. "The staff at Patricia Neal, they don't have limitations," he said.

The IRC's Adaptive Scuba Clinic is held once a year at UT. The program depends on community support and volunteers to make it happen.

Caroline joined several others in the group who've had brain and spinal injuries, strokes and other neurological impairments. All are learning that play is just as important as work, and sometimes you have to combine the two to reach your goal.

After learning to scuba dive, Caroline beamed and gave the program a thumbs up.

The IRC was created in 1994 to help people with life-changing illness or injury enjoy physical activities like water skiing, golf, marksmanship and scuba diving.

Contributions to the program are tax deductible.

The IRC is supported by contributions, fundraising and grants. All proceeds provide equipment, repairs, special instructors, and associated fees to conduct clinics.

Volunteers from the community are often the instructors at the various clinics.

Monetary gifts are payable to:
Fort Sanders Foundation
Attn: Patricia Neal IRC Fund #110
280 Ft. Sanders West Blvd., Suite 100
Knoxville, TN 37922-3352
865-531-5210

For more information:

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
Recreation Therapy Services
1901 Clinch Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37916 865-541-1353
or akaye@covhlth.com

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