ATLANTA - Tanisha Harris is back on her feet for the first time in 18 months.
“It feels good,” Harris says. “It feels good just to even stand up. It feels almost normal.”
And, the 26-year old Cobb County, Georgia, mother of two isn't just standing; she's walking, with the help of special braces from Hanger Prosthetics.
“It's really hard,” she says. “It's hard for me to breathe, it's hard on my shoulders, it's hard on everything. But I've got to do it, that's what I want.”
This is the payoff for months of hard work with exercise physiologist Tony Davenport of Project Walk Atlanta.
“When she comes in she's ready to work,” says Davenport. “She's always a bright spirit. Like, 'Hey, what are we doing today? What are we doing today?”'
A 2015 hit-and-run accident changed Harris’ whole world.
She was riding with her cousin, running errands for an upcoming photoshoot.
“I just remember turning,” Harris says. “And then I blanked out.”
Their car was slammed hard, from behind.
“I don't remember the hit,” Harris says. “I don't remember saying anything. I woke up when I was in the ambulance.”
Tanisha had suffered a devastating spinal cord injury, she was numb from her waist down.
Surgeons had to fused 3 vertebrae in Tanisha's neck to stabilize her spine.
But, she had one saving grace: although her spinal cord was badly bruised, it wasn't severed.
So, there is a chance Tanisha may recover.
After a stay at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Tanisha wanted to keep pushing herself.
So, in May of 2016, she joined Project Walk Atlanta, where Davenport and his team use intense activity, or exercise, to help clients recover from a spinal cord injury.
“She was kind of, at that point, skeptical of what we could do, as most folks are and have the right to be,” says Davenport. “But then she saw the value in what we were doing.”
Because Tanisha and Tony started making progress, strengthening her core muscles, improving her balance, and building her endurance. They worked to stimulate millions of neural pathways her brain uses to tell her muscles to move, to stand, to walk.
Eight months later, she’s still coming back, paying for the sessions with her own money.
“It's something I don't take for granted,” Harris says. “I appreciate every step. I appreciate the process and everything I'm going through.”
“Psychologically, it's a huge deal,” Davenport says. “It's a case where, you're told by a medical doctor that you will never use these limbs again.”
But, every small step gives Harris more hope.
“Everything I prayed for before, I'm seeing it now,” she says. “Everything I visualized before, I'm seeing everything fold out. So, I know it's just a process. These braces? I don't plan to have them long.”
Tanisha Harris dreams of conquering mountains.
Watching her, you can't help but believe, she'll get there.
“My goal is to get back on top of Stone Mountain,” she says. “To climb Stone Mountain. And that I will be doing.”