Therapy has been a major part of 69-year-old Bonnie Henderson’s life. Now a resident of Houston, Bonnie was 4 years old when she contracted polio, a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease, in her hometown of Los Angeles. She spent four weeks in an iron lung, a tank respirator that helped those infected with polio breathe, before she was able to return home to her mom, dad and brother.
As a result of polio, Bonnie’s left arm was paralyzed. Her mother worked hard to help her thrive by taking her to physical therapy and aquatic therapy appointments, and even created makeshift therapy equipment on their back porch using sandbags and pulleys to help her strengthen her impaired muscles. Even at a young age, Bonnie defied odds and stereotypes of living with a disability by continuing to participate in the activities she enjoyed, like dancing and baton twirling.
“Everything became part of my therapy,” said Bonnie, who admits that she still likes to get out her batons to practice twirling.
After high school, she started a career in hairdressing, which would typically be a challenge for someone with paralysis, but she successfully ran her business until about 15 years ago when post-polio syndrome symptoms evolved. With new muscle weakness, fatigue and pain, it was a struggle for Bonnie to get out of bed every morning, and she began losing her balance and falling.
It was at that point when Bonnie turned to HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Cypress. Therapists worked with her to regain strength and balance training so she could return home and keep living independently.
“As a child, doctors said I would never be able to move a finger on my left hand,” Bonnie said. “Thanks to continued therapy through every stage of my life, I can do much more than that still to this day.”