“You can party in Pity Town, but you can’t live there.”
That’s become a new mantra for Cleo Pitts, 41, of Martinsburg, WV,
who refuses to let adversity hold her back. Her car was rear-ended during
her morning commute to work on February 27. For Cleo, the accident was
as simple as this: “I put on my brakes, and they didn’t.” But this one moment changed her life, resulting in a spinal cord
injury that paralyzed her from the chest down.
On March 9, after several surgeries, Cleo was transferred to Winchester
Rehabilitation Center (WRC), a 30-bed comprehensive rehabilitation hospital
in Winchester, VA. Here she met a team of physical and occupational therapists
who would teach and encourage her to adjust to her new reality -- strengthening
her upper body to handle more, and learning to manage activities of daily
living in new ways. Her devoted sister, Phyllis Pitts, has been by her
side, helping her reach her rehabilitation goals and scouting new accessible
housing, all while working full time.
While many facing a challenge of this magnitude would become negative and
lose hope, Cleo has persevered through two months of rehabilitation with
a singular goal: attending the May 14 Bon Jovi concert at Capital One
Arena in Washington, DC. Cleo and Phyllis purchased tickets in January,
before the accident that would forever change her mobility and independence.
She, her sister, and her WRC team focused on overcoming the variety of
personal challenges presented by a road trip to a large venue in a wheelchair.
Characteristic of her upbeat attitude, following her admission to WRC
Cleo announced, “Y’all know we’re still going to Bon Jovi, right!?”
With the concert date approaching and Cleo’s rehab progressing, WRC
physicians and staff chipped in to cover the expense of renting a wheelchair
van, dinner, and other incidentals for the night of the concert. Her Occupational
Therapist purchased a Bon Jovi t-shirt for her to wear to the show Monday,
which brought a huge smile to her face.
The Bon Jovi concert represents the culmination of hard work by Cleo, Phyllis
and the WRC therapy team. When she leaves the concert Monday she won’t
be returning to inpatient rehabilitation; she will be heading to her new
home with Phyllis, equipped with the tools she needs to succeed. Her favorite
I'll Be There for You, resonates even more poignantly now as she reflects on her sister’s
unwavering, unconditional love and support since the accident.
When asked what she would do if Jon Bon Jovi read her story, Cleo exclaimed,“He has been such a big part of my life since I was 8 years old. I would
be happy just to know that he saw it. To get a tweet back would be unreal!”
Winchester Star Featured Article- Area woman paralyzed in car accident
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Cleo and her sister Phyllis had a great time at the May 14, 2018 concert.
Thank you to all who rallied to support Cleo and share her story of perseverance.
Here they are at the show: