A Family’s Story of Reclaiming Hope
Friendly Wheels, Issue 122
In a time of crisis, it may be reassuring to know that there is another family that’s experienced a similar situation: the Shepherds. James Shepherd and his mother founded the Shepherd Center, a not-for-profit hospital located in Atlanta, Georgia specializing spinal cord injury rehabilitation, in 1975 in response to an accident James endured as a young man. Learn more about his family’s inspiring story below.
For more than 40 years, the Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital located in Atlanta, Georgia, has been specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury and brain injury.
In a time of crisis, it may be reassuring to know that there is another family that’s experienced a similar situation: the Shepherds.
After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1973, James Shepherd began a backpacking trip around the world. While body surfing off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, James struck the bottom of the ocean, injuring his spinal cord. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down at 22 years old.
James spent five weeks in a Brazilian hospital before returning to the United States. Wanting the best for their son, Harold and Alana Shepherd searched for a rehabilitation treatment facility. The nearest facility they found was in Colorado specializing in spinal cord injury. After six months of rehab and hard work, James regained the ability to walk with a cane and an assistive leg brace. For walking long distances, James uses his Amigo.
Upon returning to Georgia, the Shepherds made it their mission to create a rehabilitation center in the Southeast where patients could get more than just medical care. Their goal was to establish a facility that could bring healing and hope to patients and their families.
With the help of friends and support of David Webb, Chairman of President Carter’s White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals, the Shepherd Center was founded in 1975 as a six-bed rehabilitation facility.
Today, the Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation.
It has grown to become a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year. Patients travel from across the nation – and even the globe – to the Shepherd Center for innovative neurorehabilitation.
Shepherd Center clinicians specialize in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Clinicians work with each person to create a blueprint for rehabilitation, tapping into state-of-the-art medical care, therapeutic equipment and comprehensive educational services. Staff members also serve as ambassadors to help patients navigate their journey over a lifetime.
Each Shepherd family member is still a dedicated advocate for the Center. James Shepherd serves as the Center’s Chairman of the Board. His mother, Alana Shepherd, continues to raise funds, welcome new patients and serve as Board Secretary. James’ father, Harold Shepherd, the founder of Shepherd Construction Company, works to recruit friends and associates to help support the Center. James’ son, Jamie Shepherd, MBA, is the director of community services and risk management at Shepherd Center. The family remains committed to their mission of helping people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity.
Through the pursuit of a dream, James transformed his experience in Brazil into a place where hope continues to live. It is inspiring to see how much James and his family have accomplished at the Shepherd Center. We are honored that James is a part of the Amigo family.