Keith Ferguson and Karen Skeen both know the fear and uncertainty of waking up in a hospital bed far from home.

Both suffered spinal cord injuries while traveling—Ferguson in Florida and Skeen in Mexico. And both chose Jackson’s Methodist Rehabilitation Center for their recovery.

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Audrae Barnes got the heart-dropping news over the phone.

The transportation center for the Hattiesburg School District—his beloved workplace for nine years—had been hit hard by an F-4 tornado.

“One of my guys called me and said: ‘Boss, you’re going to have to get someplace else to work,’” said the director of transportation and fleet management for the district. “My office was an actual house trailer, and it was knocked off its foundation.”

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As a grief counselor, Dr. Gladys Johnson has dedicated her life to helping people in times of crisis.

But on March 17, she found herself in a crisis of her own.

“I felt very weak on my right side, my hand didn’t work very well and I couldn’t walk well,” she said. “So I drove myself to the hospital and waited in the emergency room for 45 minutes.

“I should have just called an ambulance,” she adds with a laugh. “But at that point, I didn’t know if it was a stroke or what.”

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FLOWOOD: The Wilson Research Foundation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson will host its fourth annual Walk and Roll on Saturday, April 6 at 10 a.m. at the center’s east campus at One Layfair Drive in Flowood. The event honors past and present patients, current residents and raises funds for the Foundation to help discover ways to recover more abilities after a stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury or loss of limb.

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As he sat slumped on his living room floor, unable to walk or speak clearly, Jeff Newman knew it was time for a turnaround. A stroke had paralyzed his right side, and the father of three realized his unhealthy habits were to blame.

“I had been over 300 pounds for probably 10 years, and I had tried to lose weight before,” said the 49-year-old owner of Newman’s Pawn Shop in Hazlehurst. “But I wasn’t dedicated. I finally said: ‘I’ll just die happy.’

“But when my stroke happened, I said: ‘Lord, if you’ll give me a chance, I’ll do what I’m supposed to do.’”

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Methodist Rehabilitation Center physical therapist Susan Geiger recently lent her expertise to a team of middle school students who took top honors at a state competition.

The team is the Techno Warriors, a group of Rankin County-area home schooled students ages 10-14. The team competed in the FIRST Lego League, which tasks students with solving engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots.

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After Sam Lane Jr. of Jackson suffered a severe brain injury, family friend Katy Houston hatched a plan to “feed him back to health.”

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Ten years later, Charlie Gibbs of Clinton still thinks: What are the odds?

“One of 200,000 mosquitoes bites me,” he says. And within days, he can’t move his arms or legs.

Doctors aren’t sure what to make of Gibbs’ mysterious symptoms. They check for heart attack, stroke and even the relatively rare Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Then a blood test reveals the true villain—a tiny mosquito bearing a terrifying virus.

“I was the first person infected with West Nile virus (WNV) in Mississippi,” Gibbs says. “Aren’t I lucky?”

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There’s a vacant lot where her home once stood, so holiday homecomings will be bittersweet for Gladys Berry Jenkins of Anguilla this year.

Still, the nurse and mother of five was counting her blessings as she recently readied to leave Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.

After almost a month in hospitals, she would finally be in the company of her youngest kids—Timia, 11, and Adrienne, 5. And it’s a precious gift considering what the three have been through.

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