New mom fighting back from paralysis after benign tumor discovered

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Caring for a new baby is a round-the-clock job for any parent. But imagine fighting back from paralysis, just as your child needs you most in those early months.

That's what one mom is dealing with at a Philadelphia hospital.

Mixing formula is all in a new mom's day. But it's a major accomplishment for Rachel Barkley, who is still regaining use of her hands.

For years, she and her doctors thought her neck and shoulder pain were a pinched nerve. But three weeks after baby Hudson arrived, Rachel woke up, barely able to move.

"My brain told my right leg to move, and my toes wouldn't wiggle, my ankle wouldn't move," she said.

At the emergency department, it got worse.

"My left started getting weaker, and my fingers got weaker and weaker," said Rachel.

X-rays revealed it wasn't a pinched nerve, but a three-inch long benign tumor in Rachel's spinal column.

It took eight hours of surgery to remove the tumor. When Rachel arrived at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, she was stiff, in pain, weak, and could barely feel her hands or feet.
"She really wasn't able to do any of her own dressing, any of her own grooming, feeding," said therapist, Gina Cooke.

For seven hours a day, therapists like Cooke have worked with Rachel on a two-track plan: learning to take care of her self and to care for Hudson.

"In the beginning, I'll be honest, it was really hard to have hope," said Rachel.

Basics like standing, and playing with Hudson are gradually falling into place. What was once impossible, like holding him to feed, seems normal now, as does lifting him to play.

This week, Rachel will work on bath time, and other baby duties.

"My ultimate goal is to walk again, hopefully by the time Hudson starts walking," she said.

Rachel, her husband Taylor, and Hudson will return to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks.

She hopes by next year, she'll be playing with Hudson in the parks near their Capitol Hill home, like any young mom.
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