CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The road to recovery for one Alexander County teen is expected to be a long one, but for now, her family is joyously celebrating minor victories as they occur.
Kelly Blanton was seriously injured in July after falling off a horse in Oklahoma. The 18 year old was practicing for the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee.
The horse she was riding bucked, throwing Blanton onto the ground. Officials said she was paralyzed from the neck down.
For about a week, she was hospitalized at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, and was later airlifted to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the nation specializing in medical treatment for people with spinal cord injuries.
Sandra Creech, of Valdese, NC, is Kelly's second cousin and she spoke with us Tuesday morning.
She says Kelly is up and in a wheelchair which she can control with her mouth. She is able to leave her room, go into the hallway, and even out into a courtyard at the facility.
Creech says Kelly is receiving exceptional care, and her ability to eat is improving. Initially, they started her out with soft foods, and now she is eating more solid foods.
Kelly doesn't like watching TV, but she thoroughly enjoys when people come to read to her.
Following her injury, doctors performed a tracheotomy which provided oxygen. Creech says Kelly's doctors are hoping to wean her off the tracheotomy in the near future if she is able to breathe on her own.
No one is sure how long she will be at the facility. He dad says she has a long recovery ahead.
But they are taking each day at a time, and are extremely thankful for every new thing Kelly is able to do.
Fortunately, Kelly's mother has been by her daughter's side since she was hospitalized. Her father is a truck driver and he visits with his daughter as much as his job allows.
Click here to see Kelly's updates on Caring Bridge. You can also post words of encouragement on the Facebook page entitled "Prayer Chain for Kelly Blanton".
A fund has also been set up at Carolina Postal Credit Union in Hickory to help with medical expenses for the Blanton family.