angie.thompson@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- A Tifton teen's normal desire for independence and self-sufficiency, along with her determination, may be just what she needs after a July 30 car crash left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Jennifer Moore, 16, is in a wheelchair. But that didn't stop her from returning to Tift County High School recently to catch up with her classwork.

"I have always been really stubborn," Jennifer said. "I don't want people to do stuff for me."

Jennifer wasn't expected to live after she failed to make a curve on Zion Hope Road and repeatedly flipped the 1995 Toyota she was driving. She was on her way to her lifeguard job. Moore suffered multiple life-threatening injuries when she was thrown from the vehicle.

Her spine was injured by crushed vertebrae, she had a head injury and her ribs were crushed. Both of her lungs collapsed and she had internal bleeding.

"I don't really remember much," Jennifer said. "I just know I was pretty scared and in a lot of pain."

Jennifer was rushed to Tift Regional Medical Center and then airlifted to the Medical College of Central Georgia in Macon. During her three-day stay in intensive care there, doctors weren't issuing much hope that she would survive.

Hannah McAllister, who has been a friend of Jennifer's since they were both in the third grade, said her father called her when he heard about the accident.

"He didn't know if I was with her," Hannah said. "I was thinking, 'fender bender.' Then he came to my house and cried when he told me."

Jennifer's parents, Bonnie and Stan Moore, have five other children. They decided to transfer Jennifer to Shepherd Center in Atlanta when they realized their daughter would need intensive medical treatment and rehabilitation for the damage to her spinal cord.

Surgery stabilized Jennifer's back and spine. She was admitted to Shepherd's intensive care unit where she stayed for nine days to recover. Gradually, Jennifer's lungs became strong enough for therapists to begin weaning her from a ventilator.

"The scar tissue will never heal and my lungs will never be completely normal," Jennifer said. "Being around too much smoke could be really harmful."

In spite of it all, Jennifer feels lucky -- lucky to be alive and lucky that her paralysis did not take away all of her movement.

"There are people there (at Shepherds) who are paralyzed from the neck down," Jennifer said.

Three years of cheerleading and a history of playing tennis and basketball and swimming left Jennifer is good physical condition at the time of the accident.

"The doctor told me he didn't think I would walk again, but to stay in shape because of the stem cell research going on," Jennifer said. "That gives us a lot of hope."

Jennifer said promising research to repair spinal cord injuries could allow her to walk some day.

In the next few weeks, Jennifer will return to Shepherds to be fitted for thigh-high braces. She hopes the braces and assistance from a walker will allow her more mobility.

"It usually takes a year for patients (with her injuries) to get to this point," Jennifer said. "I did it in a couple of weeks."

As her muscle tone improves, Jennifer said the braces will be lowered down her legs.

"This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do," Jennifer. "But I have always been pretty stubborn."

Like most teens, Jennifer had been told not to drive too fast. Her parents took her car away for a period only three days after she got it for driving too fast.

"You can't really tell teen-agers," Jennifer said. "Some of them will still say, 'It can't happen to me.'"

Jennifer saw the car she wrecked for the first time a week ago.

"I just wanted to see it, just to be thankful," Jennifer said. "It looked like a dinosaur or something sat on it."

One of the Moore's family vehicles was recently equipped with two hand controls for Jennifer to use, but she doesn't know if she is ready to get back behind the wheel. She had to practice driving with a similarly equipped vehicle in Atlanta.

"I had to get back on the interstate up there and t





hat was pretty scary," Jennifer said. "I don't think I am really ready to drive, but I may as well start now."

Even though Jennifer said having to depend on people to help her get in and out of the shower or into a vehicle "makes her mad," she appreciates the assistance and concern.

"Everyone has gone out of their way to help," Jennifer said.

A benefit golf tournament held at Spring Hill Country Club helped raise money for the Moores to make their home accessible to Jennifer and teachers and administrators at Tift County High School have been supportive.

"I hope that something good comes out of this," Jennifer said. "It may have saved my little sister's life or Hannah's (McAllister) or Ann's (Stafford)."



To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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