Peer & Family Support Spotlight: ​Kathryn Granger and Kendra Murray

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 25, 2021 # Peer & Family Support Program

Few relationships in life are as cherished and impactful as the one with your high school best friend. It can be a sacred bond, creating a loyalty and connection that transcends time and place.

For Kathryn Granger and Sarah Tucker, that was certainly the case, until a 2018 car accident took Tucker’s life and left Granger with a T3 complete spinal cord injury, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. She was only 16 years old.

“Sarah was the kind of person that lit up a room just by walking into it. The kind of person you met once and remember for the rest of your life,” says Granger. “If everyone was just a little bit more like Sarah, this world would be a happier place.”

After 66 days in inpatient rehab at Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, Granger and her mom made weekly 10-hour round trip visits to Fort Worth for seven months where she received outpatient rehabilitation. In 2019, she transitioned to an outpatient facility in Lubbock, a four-hour round-trip from Granger’s Amarillo home.

While at Baylor, Granger met several people who helped her see the possibilities ahead.

“My mood certainly changed when I met Ashley Barnes. She showed me what life was like on the outside,” says Granger who is now in college, drives and lives on her own. “She was an inspiration for what life could be.”

Paralyzed from a bad medical procedure in 2014, Barnes has been a Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program mentor for years. Inspired by Barnes, Granger decided to become a mentor last year.

“Everyone starts at the lowest place when they are fresh out of their injury,” says Granger. “It is so helpful to meet others who understand life with paralysis.”

KendraLittle did Granger know that one of her first mentees would have a story very similar to her own. Sixteen-year-old Kendra Murray, now a junior at Tascosa High School in Amarillo, was 14 years old when she was in a car accident with her best friend.

“She passed away in the wreck and I was paralyzed waist down,” says Murray. “I’m a T12 burst fracture with an incomplete injury. I went to Houston for therapy and when I came home, I started going to therapy in Lubbock two times a week. Kathryn goes to the same therapy in Lubbock as I did.”

The first time Granger met Murray was at the annual clay shoot and dinner fundraiser organized by the Sister-Bear Foundation, which was started by Granger’s family. The foundation’s mission is to provide access to adaptive fitness and wellness resources for adults recovering from a stroke, spinal cord or brain injury, or other neurologic events who live in the Amarillo area.

“There is a huge need for a facility in Amarillo so people like Kendra and me and so many others don’t need to drive two hours each way for treatment,” says Granger. “This critical therapy helps keep joints, bones, and muscles in working order to maintain our strength for future discoveries to gain additional mobility.”

Murray is happy about the possibility of a new facility and her connection with Granger.

Kendra holding her dog with her older brother“The scariest thing about being in a wheelchair is feeling alone and like you’re different than the rest of the world,” says Murray. “Knowing that there are other people out there in the same or similar situation helps a lot. Living life as a disabled person is way harder than many people expect. The mentoring experience definitely can help someone who needs someone to lean on.”

The pair text a lot about clothing, going out and other social topics. Granger finds it rewarding to share the tips and tricks she’s learned over the years.

“I think it helps to see people who are further down the road than you are. It helps to get an idea of what other people are doing and how they are living,” says Granger. “Although the pain from the loss of Sarah will never go away, I know I am here to serve a greater purpose in the lives of others. I have learned to cherish every single moment and Sarah is my inspiration for continuing to persevere through challenges.”

You can request a Peer & Family Support Program mentor here.

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90PRRC0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.