Breaking news isn’t always bad news

Of all the changes over the years, both unavoidable and self-inflicted, in this crazy but addictive profession we call newspapering, at least one component remains central to our core mission: staying abreast of, and covering, breaking news.

The downside to breaking news is, of course, is that it’s almost always bad news for someone or many someones – a fire, a big crash, a crime, another young life lost to drugs, the latest Donald Trump bombast.

It’s the "almost" in "almost always" of which I write today, a couple of weeks after I was reminded in a huge way that breaking news can be good – and indeed awesome – news.

I’d just arrived at Project Walk, the unique physical therapy and paralysisrecovery center in Stratham, to hang out with Alexandria Teixeira, the 22-yearold Nashua mom paralyzed in a December 2014 car crash, for her weekly Friday morning workout.

"She can drive her wheelchair herself … this is new, even since yesterday," blurted Alex’s mom, Gina Teixeira, as I made my way across the gym.

She referred to the last time we and Alex’s aunt – Judy Tracy, who helps keep Alex’s calendar in order – communicated to confirm our meetup at Project Walk.

"Wow," I think I said, probably adding something about how great it is to hear good breaking news for a change.

The visit was my third to Project Walk to "check in" on Alex and her progress along the grueling but hopeful road on which she embarked shortly after Jackie and Larry Arlen – parents of former paralympian swimmer Victoria Arlen – opened Project Walk’s sixth franchise about 2½ years ago.

It’s actually called Project Walk Boston – probably because hardly anybody outside of New Hampshire has heard of Stratham. (Read more about it at Boston/index.asp.) But back to the important stuff. Just as psyched as are Alex and her family over her newest milestone are members of her recovery team – which includes pretty much everyone who works there.

Especially so for the team leader, Daniele Crutcher, whose professional relationship with Alex has spawned a friendship typical of most all 20-somethings.

"Alex feels normal. She’s 22. She wants to go out with her friends," Crutcher told me. To that end, Crutcher has fitted Alex with a manual, folding wheelchair chiefly for their social excursions.

"I just lift her into my car, put the chair in the trunk, and off we go," Crutcher said. The sense of independence is powerful; even if there’s no particular destination, merely having the "normal" experience of sitting in the front seat of a car and going for a ride is quite therapeutic in itself.

Alex’s family and friends are now planning the second annual Alexandria’s Avenue to Awareness Fundraiser, the proceeds of which help to offset medical and other expenses not covered by insurance. For details, see the accompanying information box.

Mommy’s driving!’

Alex’s daughter Alyvia, 2, has also become a part of her mom’s workouts. Sometimes brushing her mom’s hair from her face, sometimes climbing onto Alex’s back as Crutcher and her team run her through her mat exercises, Alyvia has sort of integrated herself – almost seamlessly – into the process, the specialists say with a smile.

And her mom’s newest accomplishment didn’t escape the little girl’s notice.

"Mommy’s driving! Mommy’s driving!" Gina Teixeira recalled her granddaughter exclaiming when she first saw Alex’s power chair moving, stopping, moving and stopping again – with nobody else around.

Crutcher said although Alex still has little, if any, mobility in her arms, she manages to work the "joystick" control by shifting her shoulder back and forth. For now, someone still needs to plop her hand on the joystick – but that will soon change, Crutcher predicted.

"It’s been my goal since she came here," she said of Alex’s ability to operate the chair herself. "Now my goal is getting her to move her arm on and off the joystick."

Alex’s team has focused a lot in recent weeks on core-strengthening exercises, Crutcher said. Blessed with unusually good posture – "for her level of movement, she has the best posture here," she says – Alex has started doing modified pushups, and her range of motion has widened.

Alex has "a lot more" sensation, too, and can feel her muscles when the specialists are stretching them. She can feel her clothing on parts of her body.

Once in a while, Crutcher said, she can see Alex’s biceps contract, and occasionally a finger or two will move. "It depends on the day," she said.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-6443, dshalhoup or @Telegraph_DeanS.