Cindy S., a former employee of Kentucky public schools, loves to make a difference in the lives of others.

Cindy enjoyed driving a school bus and working as a paraeducator for students with special needs. She also worked a third job at a lakeside restaurant to help make ends meet for her family.

On Oct. 26, 2016, Cindy slipped on a puddle of water and fell on the school cafeteria floor. She was in pain, and school officials encouraged her to go to the closest emergency department to be checked. X-rays revealed a fracture on her lower back. Cindy was scheduled for a follow-up visit with a neurosurgeon, given pain medication, and sent home.

Cindy could not afford to miss work, so she continued driving the school bus. She opted to grit through the pain rather than take medication that could have impaired her ability to drive, and she was not willing to jeopardize the welfare of her student passengers and others. She also continued reporting for her paraeducator job.

In December 2016, Cindy’s condition worsened. She had intense pain in her legs and was unable to move. She was taken to the emergency department and was diagnosed with a ruptured disc in her spine.

Cindy had surgery and was transferred to a rehab facility. She was released to go home in a wheelchair a few days before New Year’s Day 2017. Once home, Cindy developed a staph infection in the incision and had to undergo yet another surgery. Several weeks later she had a severe adverse reaction to an antibiotic and broke out in a rash. She was hospitalized again and received treatment.

Two years later, Cindy had a second ruptured disc that required another surgery. She also developed foot drop from additional nerve damage.

Today, Cindy is fully disabled and copes daily with chronic pain, limited mobility, and depression.

Asked what sustains her, Cindy said, “I’m a deeply religious person. My faith in God keeps me going. It’s a miracle that I can walk at all, and I credit the neurosurgeon who saw to it that I was a priority when an operating room opened at the crowded hospital.

“I have a wonderful husband who has been with me and prayed over the situation. He sticks with me through my pity parties and uncontrollable crying. My son tells the funniest stories. He makes me laugh, and I love that about him. And I have a loving family and caring friends who support me. I also have three dogs that give me purpose and a reason to get out of bed every morning.

“I wanted to return to work so badly, and occasionally I get to see children I had the privilege of working with and how they’ve blossomed into happy and outgoing young people. That really puts a lift in my day.

“And I’ve had the support of caring people. Julie from KEMI was there every step of the way trying to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. She has been one of the bright lights who said, ‘I got you, Cindy, I’ll take care of it.’ When I’ve needed anything, it’s nice to have someone to advocate for you who cares about the human aspect and wants to make your day better.

“Through it all, the Lord has been good to me. Maybe my story can encourage others who have been seriously injured to count blessings and look forward to what they have and not what they’ve lost. If sharing my experience can help even one person, I am truly blessed.”

Cindy’s story is one of resilience and perseverance in the face of immense adversity. She is an inspiration to the KEMI team and to others who have been seriously injured.