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Nikita Bernard's Story

Independence after Spinal Cord Injury

Nikita Bernard was just one day shy of her 18th birthday when she arrived at Helen Hayes Hospital. Five days prior, a car in which she was a passenger lost control and Nikita sustained a severe thoracic vertebral fracture that left her paralyzed from the naval down. In the span of less than a week the high school student left behind the halls of her school for those of a rehabilitation hospital, beginning her journey in severe pain from surgery and apprehensive of her future as an incomplete paraplegic.

Nikita, however, was not willing to let pain or fear stand in the way of her recovery. With the help of her rehabilitation team, she set goals for regaining her independence and was determined to meet each and every one. Beyond the goal of returning home, Nikita had important plans for her future—to go to prom, perform in her school play, finish high school, and achieve a college degree. Through the tenacity of her spirit and with her rehab team supporting her every step of the way, Nikita met each of these goals and more, even walking across the stage to receive her high school diploma.

Today, Nikita has a degree in liberal arts and sciences and musical theater and is pursuing her Bachelors Degree in social work. Her strong desire to help others has also led her to be a motivational speaker for Helen Hayes Hospital’s ThinkFirst Program, which provides injury prevention programming to local schools and youth organizations.

These are just the first steps in Nikita’s life-long mission to embrace positivity and change lives in the face of adversity. As she continues on with what she calls her “bigger purpose” to help those in need, she plans to always be a part of the Helen Hayes Hospital family whom she credits with helping her live life without limitations and to the best of her abilities.